Morgen and John at Verum Serum dug up this nugget, and not from 15 years ago when the Heritage Foundation had its brief and ill-advised fling with individual health-insurance mandates at the federal level. This comes from a May 2009 conference call hosted by Newt Gingrich on the subject of health-care reform as ObamaCare had just begun its tortured path through Congress. In this clip, Gingrich specifically calls for individual “must carry” mandates, and even notes that the insurance companies agreed that such a law would make “must issue” a better deal for them:
The most relevant part comes at the 28-second mark in this clip:
The real foundation, the most important part of this, is individual rights, responsibilities, and expectations of behavior. … We believe that there should be must-carry, that everybody should have health insurance, or if you’re an absolute libertarian, we would allow you to post a bond, but we would not allow people to be “free riders” failing to insure themselves and then showing up in the emergency room with no means of payment. If you have must carry, then the insurance companies have told us that we can have must-issue, and you will therefore have a system in which you don’t have to worry about cherry-picking and maneuvering. … This is the kind of general model we will be advocating.
Frankly, that sounds like what Mitt Romney argued in Massachusetts, and it’s almost exactly what Barack Obama argued when pushing ObamaCare. The only exception would have come for “absolute libertarians,” and in 2008, put the price of that bond at $100,000 – $150,000 — far out of the reach of most Americans. This makes sense, of course, because the wealthy are quite unlikely to be “free riders” anyway, but the mechanism that Gingrich backed even as ObamaCare was rolling out is essentially the same as Congress passed less than a year later, and it would have trapped the entire middle and working classes.
Gingrich has since said he was wrong about the individual mandate, and challenges Romney to do the same on the campaign trail — even though he told NBC in May of last year that he wouldn’t use the mandate against Romney because of his previous support. But his admissions of error tend to leave people with the impression that he repented of this a few years earlier, when Gingrich had backed forms of a mandate up until getting into the race (see above link). Morgen sums up:
Not only did Gingrich make the “conservative” argument for the mandate in dealing with the free rider problem, he also advanced a favorite argument of the left. Which is that the only way insurers could be required to offer coverage to everyone regardless of their health status (“must issue”), was to require everyone to carry insurance. This was ultimately the argument which convinced none other than Barack Obama, who remember, opposed an individual mandate during the Democrat primary campaign in 2008.
Romney is arguably even more compromised on ObamaCare than Gingrich, but it’s a much closer call in my opinion than some seem to believe.
I think either man would act to rescind ObamaCare if elected; the pressure from Republicans would be too much to bear, and in any case, the past two election cycles have proven the mandates to be politically toxic. But if one is looking for daylight between the two on this topic, they’d be hard pressed to find it.