These days conservatives despise the use of a healthcare mandate to expand insurance coverage. But it wasn't always this way.
In fact, the very idea of an individual healthcare mandate originated from the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. But don't take my word for it, read about it here and here.
Moreover, many prominent conservatives have supported the use of the individual healthcare mandate. Some noteworthy conservatives who have supported individual healthcare mandates are:
- President George H. W. Bush (Fact check me here and here)
- Speaker Newt Gingrich R-GA (Fact check me here)
- Senator Orrin Hatch R-UT (Fact check me here)
- Senator Charles Grassley R-Iowa (Check me here)
- Senator Bob Bennett R-UT (Check me here)
- Senator Christopher Bond R-Missouri (Check me here)
- Senator John Chafee R-RI (Check me here)
- Rep. Bill Thomas R-CA (Check me here)
- And at least 16 other GOP Senators who have since retired from the Senate (Here)
Actually, in 1993 when then-President Clinton was attempting to reform healthcare, Republicans who opposed Clinton's idea of an employer mandate, supported the idea of an individual mandate. An individual mandate, the Republicans argued, would be a "free-market solution" to reform healthcare, part of a "social contract" that would help people take responsibility for themselves and avoid the immorality of freeloading off the government. Clinton's plan, on the other hand, was seen as a "true government take-over" of healthcare, the worst form of the dreaded "socialized medicine." (Read about it here)
In fact, when Romney signed the Massachusetts Healthcare Law in 2006, it was touted by many healthcare experts, and media outlets as a "conservative answer" to the healthcare crisis. (Fact check me here and here)
My favorite quotation on how Romney's plan was initially considered conservative, is given by renowned Harvard healthcare expert, Regina Herzlinger, in her new book Who Killed Healthcare?. In her book, Herzlinger states:
"A bizarre 2006 photograph shows Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) uncomfortably smiling while standing in back of seated Republican MA Governor Mitt Romney as he signed the new healthcare legislation. Kennedy got what he wanted, required universal health insurance coverage, while Romney achieved what he wanted, consumer-driven healthcare solutions which Kennedy was not comfortable with."So can conservatives support the use of an individual mandate? Absolutely! Conservatives don't need to allow their convictions in the value and conservative nature of an individual mandate to be overruled by party leaders or popular media pundits. Afterall, the idea was originally created and extolled by conservative sources! (Check here and here to read more about how an individual mandate is conservative.)
But an individual mandate is most effective when it is initiated on the state level. Why? Because Not every state has the proper economy for an individual mandate to work effectively. Consider the vastly different debt levels that each state has at this point. How can one state that is nearly bankrupt, such as California, be expected to expand its healthcare entitlements to the large degree that Obamacare requires? To emphasize this point, we need only see how the Governors of each state feel about the new federal health law signed by President Obama. A recent letter sent by 33 of the nations Governors to President Obama stated:
"The effect of the federal requirements is unconscionable; the federal requirements force Governors to cut other critical state programs, such as education, in order to fund a "one-size-fits-all" approach to medicaid."
So why did the individual mandate work in MA but may not work in other states? Several reasons:
1) The individual mandate worked in Massachusetts because Romney balanced the state budget before implementing RomneyCare. Balancing the budget shows fiscal responsibility on Romney's part before introducing any new laws that may affect spending. Obama did no such thing.
2) Debt levels vary greatly state to state. MA had a balanced budget when it implemented RomneyCare. Other states, such as California, are facing crushing budget crisis that simply won't have room for new spending required by Obamacare without cutting spending to other vital areas.
3) Romney took time to build a consensus of approval in the state before passing the new law. Polls show that Romneycare still remains very popular in MA to this day. Again, Obama did no such thing. A consensus of approval is vital to the success of any major reform.
4) In addition, RomneyCare works well in MA because the state has a high average income for its residents coupled with an already low rate of uninsured residents, even before the law was passed. Other states with low average incomes and a high uninsured rate (such as New Mexico, Arkansas) will have a much more difficult time implementing Obamacare. States with low incomes and high uninsured rates will be forced to cut spending to other vital areas of the budget (such as education) in order to implement Obamacare.The individual mandate worked in MA, but it wouldn't work everywhere. Romney understands that.