People without health insurance don’t lack access to care, and aren’t at risk of “dying in their apartments,” according to Mitt Romney.

The Republican presidential candidate revived a theme he sounded in a “60 Minutes” interview last month, during a Wednesday interview with the Columbus Dispatch editorial board. Romney said that he intends to oversee the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act as president, and replace it with his own plan, which he said would give people the “choice” whether to buy coverage.

But he didn’t specify how long Americans would have to make that choice, or what would happen to those who chose not to be covered and later fell sick.

Romney minimized the harm for Americans left without health insurance.“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’  ” he said as he offered more hints as to what he would put in place of “Obamacare,” which he has pledged to repeal.

“No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

He pointed out that federal law requires hospitals to treat those without health insurance — although hospital officials frequently say that drives up health-care costs.

Meanwhile, as the Huffington Post points out:

Roughly 4 in 25 Americans, or nearly 49 million Americans, had no health insurancelast year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Repealing Obamacare would deny access to health insurance to about 30 million uninsured Americans who would have received it under health care reform.

Letting so many people go uninsured ultimately can cost both individuals and society. When people lack health insurance, their health worsens, and their health treatments become more expensive, research has found. People without health insurance also are in danger of facing massive medical bills, debt, and bankruptcy if they get sick or injured.

Meanwhile the costs of treating those without health insurance in emergency rooms is ultimately passed on to those with health insurance, in the form of higher hospital costs and increased insurance premiums. When he was Massachusetts governor, Romney signed a bill similar to “Obamacare” and later defended the mandate to have insurance, decrying so-called “free riders” who receive emergency healthcare but carry no insurance:

In 2008, when Romney was running for president for the first time, ABC News host Charlie Gibson asked him during a New Hampshire debate, “Governor … you imposed tax penalties in Massachusetts?” Romney replied, “Yes, we said, look, if people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way; don’t be free riders.” It was the same debate in which he infamously declared, “I like mandates.”

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.