Romney to Obama, 2009: Embrace the Individual Mandate

Kate Hicks
Posted: Mar 02, 2012 7:49 PM

Throughout his campaign, Mitt Romney has tried to defend the individual mandate he signed into law in Massachusetts by claiming that such an approach to healthcare is acceptable on a state, but not a federal level. But a recently discovered USA Today op-ed, dated July 30, 2009, contradicts the presidential hopeful's current line of argument. It seems he took to the papers to urge President Obama to adopt the same approach to healthcare nationally.

As Rick Perry once said, "Oops."

The op-ed -- no longer avaiable on USA Today's site, only a Romney fan site -- tells President Obama, "[T]he lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find" the solution to the healthcare dilemma.

One of the most damning paragraphs reads,

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar. Second, we helped pay for our new program by ending an old one — something government should do more often. The federal government sends an estimated $42 billion to hospitals that care for the poor: Use those funds instead to help the poor buy private insurance, as we did.

How does he explain this away? In debates, Romney defended his plan as "right for Massachusetts, not for the country at large," and often, he'd turn his answer into a defense of federalism. Yet here, while the healthcare bill was still under construction, he urges the president to embrace the individual mandate -- an idea that Obama had vehemently opposed during his own run for the presidency.

Furthermore, how would he run against Obama on this issue in the general election? How will he defend his state's use of the individual mandate if he urged the president to enact the same on a national scale? Nearly 60% of Americans oppose the individual mandate, and yet Romney would be unable to champion that position -- he already championed the other side.