Guess Who Else Liked The Individual Mandate? Newt Gingrich
Mitt Romney isn’t the only Republican candidate for President with a health care policy problem:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is set to defend his state’s health care law from conservative critics in a high-profile speech on Thursday. But Romney is far from being the potential 2012 Republican presidential contender with the most politically problematic record on health care.
That title likely belongs to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who announced his White House aspirations a day prior to Romney’s address.
In his post-congressional life, Gingrich has been a vocal champion for mandated insurance coverage — the very provision of President Obama’s health care legislation that the Republican Party now decries as fundamentally unconstitutional.
This mandate was hardly some little-discussed aspect of Gingrich’s plan for health care reform. In the mid-2000s, he partnered with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to promote a centrist solution to fixing the nation’s health care system. A July 22, 2005, Hotline article on one of the duo’s events described the former speaker as endorsing not just state-based mandates (the linchpin of Romney’s Massachusetts law) but “some federal mandates” as well. A New York Sun writeup of what appears to be the same event noted that “both politicians appeared to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage.”
In a June 2007 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, Gingrich wrote, “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.” An “individual mandate,” he added, should be applied “when the larger health-care system has been fundamentally changed.”
And in several of his many policy and politics-focused books, Gingrich offered much the same.
In 2008’s “Real Change,” he wrote, “Finally, we should insist that everyone above a certain level buy coverage (or, if they are opposed to insurance, post a bond). Meanwhile, we should provide tax credits or subsidize private insurance for the poor.”
In 2005’s “Winning the Future,” he expanded on the idea in more detail: “You have the right to be part of the lowest-cost insurance pool and you have a responsibility to buy insurance. … We need some significant changes to ensure that every American is insured, but we should make it clear that a 21st Century Intelligent System requires everyone to participate in the insurance system.”
“People whose income is too low should receive Medicaid vouchers and tax credits to buy insurance,” he continued. “Large risk pools (association health plans are one model) should be established so low-income people can buy insurance as inexpensively as large corporations. Furthermore, it should be possible to buy your health insurance on-line to lower the cost as much as possible.”
I look forward to seeing how Gingrich is going to weasel his way out of this one in his effort to convince the Tea Party crowd that he’s one of them.