Health reform has eyes of Newt

Individual mandate has many fathers, so why do they vilify the one who adopted the child?

For this professor of history, the past is a precarious place to revisit.

It’s been widely accepted that Mitt Romney is the father of  what Republicans have tagged “Obamacare.” The legislation he signed into law in Massachusetts became the blueprint for national health care reform. But there is plenty of paternity credit to go around:  the individual mandate – the requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance or be subject to a tax penalty – has the eyes, nose and hair of Newt Gingrich.

And since Gingrich has recently topped Romney as the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, it begs the question: does this mean Republicans secretly love “Obamacare?” Is the individual mandate the secret love child of their party and the private health insurance industry?

Like Romney, Gingrich claims the child – the individual mandate – can not be linked to him. Gingrich asks us to believe that his support of the individual mandate was a mere flirtation back in 1993, when the GOP twice introduced legislation that included an individual mandate provision. He claims the provision then, was simply an alternative to what his party was then calling “Hillarycare”: reform efforts led by the then First Lady Hillary Clinton.

But the YouTube age is a precarious time to be a politician, because we all have rewind buttons. Gingrich hasn’t just been supporting the individual mandate for the past 20 years – he’s been its champion. Here is video of him in 2005 still calling the individual mandate an essential ingredient of health reform (and he was right). Here again, from a Meet the Press appearance in May of this year, he resists backing away from the individual mandate that his fellow party members were already declaring an abomination.

Newt advanced the concept of the individual mandate, but Obama was a leader with the skill to move it from theory into practice. The President actually did what Newt has only been talking about for nearly two decades. In Texas parlance, Newt is “all hat and no cattle.” Newt hasn’t managed to “walk the walk,” but he has definitely demonstrated a propensity for rewriting history to fit the moment’s political calculations.

But it can be a dangerous game. Remember the old adage “be careful of what you ask for”? The individual mandate is the glue that holds the entirety of health care reform together. Without it, this attempt to preserve America’s private health care system collapses.

The Supreme Court has announced that it will rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate sometime in March. If the individual mandate is tossed out, next up  is single-payer health care – we know that’s constitutional. Glowing examples include Medicare and TriCare, the government-run health care program for active duty military. (And seniors and our military like what they’ve got.)

If the GOP wants to unseat Obama next November, they’d best stop chanting the specious “repeal and replace” mantra. (Personally, I don’t think you’ll hear much of it outside the primary season.) After all, Obama gave the Republicans what they have been asking for since the 1970s.

I have no idea how or why they’d “replace” the provision they have long advanced, and sadly, it seems that neither do they.

It’s been widely accepted that Mitt Romney is the father of  what Republicans have tagged “Obamacare.” The legislation he signed into law in Massachusetts became the blueprint for national health care reform. But there is plenty of paternity credit to go around:  the individual mandate – the requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance or be subject to a tax penalty – has the eyes, nose and hair of Newt Gingrich.

And since Gingrich has recently topped Romney as the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, it begs the question: does this mean Republicans secretly love “Obamacare?” Is the individual mandate the secret love child of their party and the private health insurance industry?

Like Romney, Gingrich claims the child – the individual mandate – can not be linked to him. Gingrich asks us to believe that his support of the individual mandate was a mere flirtation back in 1993, when the GOP twice introduced legislation that included an individual mandate provision. He claims the provision then, was simply an alternative to what his party was then calling “Hillarycare”: reform efforts led by the then First Lady Hillary Clinton.

But the YouTube age is a precarious time to be a politician, because we all have rewind buttons. Gingrich hasn’t just been supporting the individual mandate for the past 20 years – he’s been its champion. Here is video of him in 2005 still calling the individual mandate an essential ingredient of health reform (and he was right). Here again, from a Meet the Press appearance in May of this year, he resists backing away from the individual mandate that his fellow party members were already declaring an abomination.

Newt advanced the concept of the individual mandate, but Obama was a leader with the skill to move it from theory into practice. The President actually did what Newt has only been talking about for nearly two decades. In Texas parlance, Newt is “all hat and no cattle.” Newt hasn’t managed to “walk the walk,” but he has definitely demonstrated a propensity for rewriting history to fit the moment’s political calculations.

But it can be a dangerous game. Remember the old adage “be careful of what you ask for”? The individual mandate is the glue that holds the entirety of health care reform together. Without it, this attempt to preserve America’s private health care system collapses.

The Supreme Court has announced that it will rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate sometime in March. If the individual mandate is tossed out, next up  is single-payer health care – we know that’s constitutional. Glowing examples include Medicare and TriCare, the government-run health care program for active duty military. (And seniors and our military like what they’ve got.)

If the GOP wants to unseat Obama next November, they’d best stop chanting the specious “repeal and replace” mantra. (Personally, I don’t think you’ll hear much of it outside the primary season.) After all, Obama gave the Republicans what they have been asking for since the 1970s.

I have no idea how or why they’d “replace” the provision they have long advanced, and sadly, it seems that neither do they.

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