Jeff Jacoby

They say all things must end, but the wrangling over Mitt Romney's support for an individual health-insurance mandate persists without letup.

It has been nearly six years since Romney, with much fanfare, signed the Massachusetts health-care overhaul into law. On the eve of the signing ceremony he had praised the bill's requirement that every resident obtain health insurance, and suggested with pride that the rest of the nation might want to follow the Bay State's lead. "How much of our health-care plan applies to other states?" he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "A lot."

It was a message he would reiterate time and again.

"I'm proud of what we've done," Romney told a Baltimore audience in February 2007. "If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation." In Iowa that summer, he waxed enthusiastic about the new law and its mandate: "We have to have our citizens insured," he insisted. "What you have to do is what we did in Massachusetts. Is it perfect? No. But we say, let's rely on personal responsibility.... No more free rides."

In the spring of 2009, as congressional debate over ObamaCare intensified, Romney was asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether his 2006 law was a good model for the nation. His answer: "Well, I think so!" A few weeks later he again touted the Massachusetts scheme for "getting every citizen insured" as one Washington should heed: "Using tax penalties, as we did … encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. "

If anything should be uncontested by now, it is Romney's faith in the wisdom of a Massachusetts-style mandate for health insurance. Yet the debate rages on.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for