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Romney sees ‘consumer’ healthcare after Obama plan

(Reuters) – Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday laid out his vision for a “consumer market” healthcare approach to replace President Barack Obama’s sweeping reform law, whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the legislation this month.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told supporters in Orlando, Florida, that he would prevent people with pre-existing medical conditions with a history of health coverage from losing their insurance.

Romney said he would also press for more private insurance options for senior citizens and help states address the needs of an estimated 50 million uninsured Americans by freeing up federal funds from the national Medicaid program for the poor.

“It’s important for us, in my view, to make sure that every American has access to good healthcare,” he said while offering few details on his proposals.

The Supreme Court is due to make a ruling soon that could overturn all or part of Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping healthcare legislation since the 1960s.

The law would extend health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans beginning in 2014, prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions and encourage innovations intended to lower costs while improving the quality of care.

Twenty-six U.S. states and an independent business group have asked the Supreme Court to overturn the law, saying the legislation exceeds the federal government’s constitutional authority.

The former Massachusetts governor said he would be ready as president if the high court justices opt to uphold the law in a decision expected by the end of this month.

“At a time when the Supreme Court has left Obamacare in case, I will repeal it on day one,” Romney said.

His own prescription for the country’s sprawling and often inefficient healthcare industry bore little resemblance to the president’s reform law, which was based on the reforms Romney oversaw in Massachusetts in 2006.

Romney said he would like healthcare goods and services to be available in an open marketplace like other consumer products including automobiles and tires by changing the tax code and allowing communities and organizations greater flexibility to form health insurance pools.

“Consumer markets tend to work very well: Keep the costs down and the quality up,” he said. “Free enterprise is the way America works. We need to apply that to healthcare.”

He called specifically for giving individuals the same tax break that allows companies to offer insurance coverage to their workers as an untaxed benefit.