Under the headline “Like Car Insurance, Health Coverage May Be Mandated: A Proposed Requirement That All Americans Have Policies Has Broad Support Among Reformers” Ceci Connolly reports today:
Labor unions, economists, the medical industry, big business, some prominent Republicans and Obama all support the [individual mandate], which has its roots in the conservative philosophy of self-reliance.
Stuart Butler, a vice president at the conservative Heritage Foundation, agrees that bringing everyone — especially young, healthy patients — into the risk pool would be advantageous. But he advocates beginning with a voluntary “opt out” approach similar to automatic enrollment programs for retirement accounts. If policies are reasonably priced, he expects that few will turn down the coverage.
Just to be 100% clear, neither Butler nor The Heritage Foundation support individual mandates, especially mandates of the variety currently being discussed on Capitol Hill. Heritage fellow Bob Moffit wrote in the Spring 2008 Harvard Health Policy Review:
On practical, political, and philosophical grounds, policymakers should avoid the imposition of an individual mandate for health insurance.
On practical grounds, an enforcement mechanism to secure universal coverage—in the literal sense of 100% coverage—is unlikely to achieve that goal. … Politically, the pursuit of an individual mandate would require an insistence on a level of public coercion by unspecified means that does not yet enjoy anything close to a public consensus. … On philosophical grounds, policymakers should retain a bias for personal liberty.
And Heritage fellow Dennis Smith wrote for the Federalist Society:
This individual mandate, if passed, would be an unprecedented federal directive that might call into question the constitutionality of such an action under Congress’s taxation or interstate commerce “regulatory” authority, as well the ramifications of such a mandate under the First Amendment’s “free exercise” protections and Fifth Amendment protections against governmental “takings.”
Even President Barack Obama used to be against individual mandates. During his February 21, 2008 debate with then-Senator Clinton Obama said:
Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20 percent can’t afford it.
In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance and they’re paying a fine.