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Don't Blame Heritage for ObamaCare Mandate
Posted By Stuart Butler On February 6, 2012 @ 1:40 pm In Featured,Obamacare | Comments Disabled
Is the individual mandate at the heart of “ObamaCare” a conservative idea? Is it constitutional? And was it invented at The Heritage Foundation? In a word, no.
The U.S. Supreme Court  will put the middle issue to rest. The answers to the first and last can come from me. After all, I headed Heritage’s health work for 30 years. And make no mistake: Heritage and I actively oppose the individual mandate, including in an amicus brief  filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals  to the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, the myth persists. ObamaCare “adopts the ‘individual mandate’ concept from the conservative Heritage Foundation,” Jonathan Alter wrote recently  in The Washington Post. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews makes the same claim , asserting that Republican support of a mandate “has its roots in a proposal by the conservative Heritage Foundation.” Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi  and others have made similar claims.
The confusion arises from the fact that 20 years ago, I held the view that as a technical matter, some form of requirement to purchase insurance was needed in a near-universal insurance market to avoid massive instability through “adverse selection” (insurers avoiding bad risks and healthy people declining coverage). At that time, President Clinton  was proposing a universal health care plan, and Heritage and I devised a viable alternative.
My view was shared at the time by many conservative experts, including American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholars, as well as most non-conservative analysts. Even libertarian-conservative icon Milton Friedman , in a 1991 Wall Street Journal  article, advocated replacing Medicare and Medicaid “with a requirement that every U.S.  family unit have a major medical insurance policy.”
My idea was hardly new. Heritage did not invent the individual mandate.
But the version of the health insurance mandate Heritage and I supported in the 1990s had three critical features. First, it was not primarily intended to push people to obtain protection for their own good, but to protect others. Like auto damage liability insurance required in most states, our requirement focused on “catastrophic” costs — so hospitals and taxpayers would not have to foot the bill for the expensive illness or accident of someone who did not buy insurance.
Second, we sought to induce people to buy coverage primarily through the carrot of a generous health credit or voucher, financed in part by a fundamental reform of the tax treatment of health coverage, rather than by a stick.
And third, in the legislation we helped craft that ultimately became a preferred alternative to ClintonCare, the “mandate” was actually the loss of certain tax breaks for those not choosing to buy coverage, not a legal requirement.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/02/06/dont-blame-heritage-for-obamacare-mandate/
URLs in this post:
 U.S. Supreme Court: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Organizations/Government+Bodies/Supreme+Court
 in an amicus brief: http://blog.heritage.org../wp-content/uploads/Heritage-Foundation-Amicus-Brief-05-11-11.pdf
 Circuit Court of Appeals: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Circuit+Court+of+Appeals
 wrote recently: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-barack-obama/2012/01/17/gIQA6ykZDQ_story.html
 makes the same claim: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43154089/ns/msnbc_tv-hardball_with_chris_matthews/t/hardball-chris-matthews-monday-may-th/#.TyroL8iM6uI
 Nancy Pelosi: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Politicians,+Government+Officials,+Strategists/U.S.+Representatives/Nancy+Pelosi
 President Clinton: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/People/Politicians,+Government+Officials,+Strategists/Executive/Bill+Clinton
 Milton Friedman: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Milton+Friedman
 Wall Street Journal: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Organizations/Companies/Publishers,+Media,+Music/Wall+Street+Journal
 U.S.: http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/U.S
 Read more of Butler’s article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-02-03/health-individual-mandate-reform-heritage/52951140/1
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