Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that, while he intends to dismantle the Obama administration's health-care law, if elected, he will retain several key provisions, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.
In an interview aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Romney said his overhaul will also allow families to cover adult children with their policies through age 26 and include access to coverage for unemployed people seeking insurance.
Both are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama in 2010.
"I'm not getting rid of all health-care reform," Romney said. "Of course there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I'm going to put in place."
Romney's promises are not altogether new. But, delivered in a major network interview at the outset of the fall campaign, they had the ring of an explicit appeal to a general election audience, especially moderate independent voters leery of wrenching changes in their health care.
The Obama campaign disputed some of Romney's assurances. It said that his plan would cover pre-existing conditions only for the continuously insured, excluding those who have never had private coverage or who have lost it because of unemployment.
People in such circumstances have been protected under federal law since 1996.
"When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he really did have a comprehensive plan to make sure people with pre-existing conditions could get coverage, which is why his Massachusetts health reform law formed the basis for Obamacare," Obama campaign spokeswoman Liz Smith said in a statement. "But now, he has pledged to repeal the national law modeled on his successful efforts, and has offered an inadequate plan in its place."
Independent analysts have said Romney's promise to retain coverage for those with pre-existing conditions would be difficult to keep without enforcing the individual mandate, which the GOP opposes.
The two campaigns continued Sunday to debate the future of Medicare. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan proposed establishing a voucher option beginning in 2023 so seniors can buy their health insurance from private companies.
They can also opt to remain in traditional Medicare.
President Barack Obama, campaigning in Florida, cited a new study by Harvard University professor David Cutler that concludes seniors stand to pay tens of thousands in additional health-care costs under the Romney-Ryan proposal. The study, based on data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said the value of the vouchers would not keep pace with rising health-care costs.
"No American should have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies," Obama said at a rally in Melbourne, Fla.
The Romney campaign quickly challenged the work of Cutler, a former adviser to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and his co-authors, who conducted the study for the Center for American Progress Fund, a liberal advocacy organization.
"The president's latest false attacks are a sign of desperation," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. "The president's decision to use discredited studies and outright falsehoods to attack Mitt Romney is an admission that he can't talk about his record."
Romney also criticized congressional Republicans for agreeing to defense cuts as part of a deal with the White House last summer to raise the debt ceiling, calling the support "an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction."
Among House Republicans voting for the deal was Ryan.