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Reality Check: Health Care & The Individual Mandate

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) - Republicans are united against the individual mandate.

They call it “socialism” and an unconstitutional “government takeover”.

But the central pillar of President Obama’s health care law came from “America’s most-respected conservative thinkers.”

It’s TRUE.

The conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation first proposed the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance in 1989.

It was an individual “mandate for all households”.

The Heritage proposal was an alternative to a Democratic idea Republicans considered far worse: A government-run health service.

That’s partly what President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton proposed in 1993.

“Hillary Care”, as it was called, would have required employers to buy health insurance for their workers.

That’s when Republicans, including GOP Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole, introduced a bill requiring individuals to buy insurance instead. And the individual mandate was born.

That’s NOT THE WHOLE STORY.

Republicans like Newt Gingrich supported the mandate back then, and it became the conservative health care model for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

During the GOP Primary season, Romney sometimes deflected attacks on “RomneyCare” by highlighting Gingrich and The Heritage Foundation.

“We got the idea of an individual mandate…from (Newt Gingrich),” said Romney during a December 2011 GOP presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas. “And [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation.”

As Republicans backed away, 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton embraced it.

But candidate Barack Obama actually campaigned against the individual mandate.

“If a mandate was the solution, we could try it to solve homelessness by mandating that everybody buy a house,” said then-Senator Obama (D-Ill). “The reason they don’t have a house is that they don’t have the money.”

But when he became President, Obama flip-flopped.
Calculating the only way to pay for health care was to force everyone to buy it, even though he reportedly had doubts about its legality.

Only seven minutes after the president signed the health care law, conservatives went to court to declare it unconstitutional.

This completed, full circle, the 23-year, jaw-dropping, breathtaking about-face of almost every politician involved in health care.

That’s Reality Check.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

1989 The Heritage Foundation Report

The 7-minute lawsuit

Obama opposes mandate, changes mind despite doubts 1

Obama opposes mandate, changes mind despite doubts 2

Individual Mandate Fact-Checks 1

Individual Mandate Fact-Checks 2

Clinton Health Care Proposal / “Hillary Care” 1

Clinton Health Care Proposal / “Hillary Care” 2

1993 Republican “Individual Mandate” Bill 1

1993 Republican “Individual Mandate” Bill 2

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