On Meet the Press yesterday, Mitt Romney offered another phantom move on health care, implying that he’d keep such elements of the Affordable Care Act as the ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions and an extension of the time during which a child can be kept on parental policies. In other words, he’d keep the popular stuff (no word yet, however, on the Medicare “doughnut hole,” the 80/20 rule that is already generating insurance rebates, and free preventive care, even though these provisions are already taking effect).

To the surprise of no one who has been following Romney’s astonishingly twisted path on health care policy, staff were soon dispatched to “clarify” what Mitt meant, and it’s sure not what he implied on MTP: he’s confident the markets will offer policies covering young adults under their parents’ plans, and he’ll ensure some kind of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions who haven’t let their coverage lapse (a slice of the population largely covered under existing law); if his past statements are any indication, this will wind up meaning that such folk would be covered under the kind of crappy state risk pool plans that already provide poor coverage at crazy high prices.

So once again, Mitt makes a reasonable sounding statement in front of a large audience, knowing he won’t be forced to disclose any details or actually make sense, and only later do we find out that it’s all smoke.

The maddening thing, of course, is that Mitt Romney knows better than anyone in America that you can’t provide universal and affordable coverage to people with pre-existing conditions without a much broader risk pool, which is precisely why he supported the imposition of an individual mandate in Massachusetts. Since a very important part of his devil’s bargain with the GOP is to forget everything he’s ever known about health policy, it’s not surprising he feigns ignorance about how private health insurance actually operates. But this is one area of public policy where absolutely no one from Left to Right has any reason to believe a word he is saying.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.