Conservatives’ biggest knock against presidential candidate Mitt Romney is that he implemented an individual health insurance mandate in Massachusetts. But if you look at the Republican leaders who have supported the idea over the years, you wonder who is fooling whom.
In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon favored such a mandate. In the 1990s, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported a mandate.
The Heritage Foundation, one of the top conservative think tanks, embraced a mandate.
“Yes, in the early 1990s, we, along with other prominent conservative economists, supported the idea of such a mandate,” Robert Moffit, a Heritage scholar, wrote in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post.
“It seemed the only way to solve the ‘free-rider’ problem in which individuals can, under federal law, walk into any hospital emergency room nationwide and rack up big bills at taxpayer expense,” Moffit added.
|NRA President Dave Keene
“Most Republican leaders in that era supported a mandate, and the Romney plan came out of the Heritage plan,” Dave Keene, the president of the National Rifle Association and former chairman of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax.
In fact, “The idea of an individual mandate as an alternative to single-payer was a Republican idea,” says health economist Mark Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
More recently, when asked on Fox News in February 2007 about the Romney plan, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee and a favorite of the tea party movement, said, “Well, that’s something that I think we should do for the whole country.”
In announcing his run for governor of Minnesota, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said in May 2006, “We’ll be looking, like we do in automobile insurance, to require people who have the resources and the means to have [health] insurance.”
In November 2006, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Pawlenty said he was “open to a state law that would try to achieve universal coverage by requiring that all Minnesotans have insurance.”
Asked if a health insurance mandate would be a good idea, current Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman said in September 2007 on Utah’s KUED, “I’m comfortable with a requirement.”
In March 2008, Huntsman as Utah’s governor signed into law healthcare reform legislation that included a requirement that the state study “the costs and benefits associated with (a) different forms of mandates for individual responsibility; and (b) potential enforcement mechanisms for individual responsibility.”
Pawlenty has since said he never supported a mandate, Huntsman says he never pushed it, and Gingrich and DeMint say they now oppose a mandate. Romney has said the first thing he would do as president is grant waivers from the Obama healthcare law to all states and seek to repeal it.
But to demonize the former Massachusetts governor for having adopted an idea that was supposedly anathema to Republicans is to rewrite history.
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