Mitt Romney Hates Mandates, But He Loves Mandates

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This is yesterday’s news, but I just now got around to reading Mitt Romney’s USA Today op-ed from 2009 in which he criticized the way healthcare reform was being designed and recommended that Obama look instead to Romney’s healthcare reform in Massachusetts:

With more than 1,300 health insurance companies, a federal government insurance company isn’t necessary. It would inevitably lead to massive taxpayer subsidies, to lobbyist-inspired coverage mandates [etc.]….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.

So Romney’s advice is to (a) avoid mandates and instead (b) use tax penalties to encourage the uninsured to buy insurance. And he’s specifically recommending this as a model for national legislation.

But this is, of course, exactly what PPACA does. If you don’t have insurance, you have to pay a tax penalty. That’s how the mandate is enforced. And it’s what Romney recommended Obama do.

At this point I guess it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows perfectly well that Romney shepherded through a healthcare reform bill in Massachusetts that included a mandate, and everyone knows that he used to point to it as a model for the whole country. And either you care about this, or else you’ve already decided to shrug your shoulders and just accept Romney’s obfuscations on the subject. Still, it’s pretty remarkable that he’s getting away with it. As recently as two years ago, he thought that a mandate enforced by a tax penalty was aces. Today he thinks it’s the gravest threat to the country since Pearl Harbor. Go figure.

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