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Posted by on Mar 24, 2010 in Economy, Health, Politics, Society | 26 comments

The Individual Mandate: Republicans Were For It Before They Were Against It

What do John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Tommy Thompson have in common? Well, they’re all conservative Republicans. What else?

They all supported requiring Americans to have health insurance — before Democrats made that mandate part of their health insurance reform package, of course:

The lawsuit against the health care overhaul filed Tuesday by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is focused on a provision that has long been advocated by conservatives, big business and the insurance industry.

The lawsuit by McCollum, a candidate for governor, and 12 other attorneys general, focuses on the provision that virtually all Americans will need to have health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

The lawsuit calls this an “unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals.” It states the Constitution doesn’t authorize such a mandate, the proposed tax penalty is unlawful and is an “unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states.”

“The truth is this is a Republican idea,” said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said she first heard the concept of the “individual mandate” in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, to counter the “Hillarycare” the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008, Thompson said, “Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance.”

Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage.

“Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate,” Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. “But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.”

Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.