Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Or more precisely, before it became unconstitutional. The Miami Herald points out that Republicans have not only embraced the idea of mandating the purchase of health insurance, it has often served as the cornerstone of their alternative to Democrats’ plans for health care reform.

This is most obvious in the 1993 Republican alternative to the Clinton health care plan, which included that very idea. Among the Republican co-sponsors of that bill in the Senate: Bob Dole, Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley, Richard Luger, Ted Stevens, Kit Bond, Robert Bennett and John Danforth.

“The truth is this is a Republican idea,” said Linda Quick , president of the South Florida Hospital and Health care Association. She said she first heard the concept of the “individual mandate” in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain , a conservative Republican from Arizona , to counter the “Hillarycare” the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson , secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush .

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008 , Thompson said, “Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance.”

Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney , who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage.

“Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate,” Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. “But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.”

Romney was referring to the federal law that requires everyone to be treated in emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.

The insurance companies, naturally, have always been in favor of a mandate to buy their product. What company wouldn’t like that?

I don’t like the mandate myself. I don’t think it should be in the bill. And Obama was opposed to it during the campaign, before he was for it, so the GOP is not the only ones to have flip flopped on this one.