An elephant forgets: the individual mandate

GOP starts something it couldn't finish

For nearly 20 years the GOP trumpeted the virtues of the individual mandate as a vehicle to get the 2 percent who could afford — but refused to buy — insurance in the pool. But once President Obama turned their talk into action, they went sour on the idea.

 

You’ll be excused if you think – with the rhetoric surrounding the Supreme Court hearings – that the individual mandate was the Democrats’ idea.

Actually, it was conceived by Republicans who insisted that those without health insurance are milking the rest of us.

No free rides

Mitt Romney sees those folks as “free-riders” since hospitals are required to treat them regardless of their ability to pay. As Massachusetts Governor, he insisted on a mandate as a matter of fairness. Newt Gingrich spent  20 years calling for a federal mandate. Senate Republicans twice introduced bills that would establish a mandate, but were unable to get one passed.

Making sausage: the hard work of governing

As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama opposed a mandate. Efforts for compulsory health insurance have been attempted since 1915, and it’s a goal that stymied Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton. The German statesman Otto von Bismarck famously said, “politics is the art of the possible” and that’s as good a reason as any for why President Obama adopted several long-championed Republican ideals, including the mandate, in the ACA.

Von Bismarck also famously decreed, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Obama, time and again, reached out to craft a bipartisan health care bill, even if he wasn’t able to arouse bipartisan support. The Republicans were like the barnyard animals in the story about The Little Red Hen – they didn’t want to actually do any of the work to help solve our health care problems.

Many Democrats voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fully aware that it might cost them their seats in the mid-term elections.That’s political courage. In the mid-terms, we replaced a do-something Congress with a do-nothing Congress.

Will these impotent lawmakers retain their seats this fall? We deserve the government we vote for. See how they vote here.

 

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