The Corner

Ed Gillespie: ‘I Have Never Advocated for an Individual Mandate’

A Washington Examiner story claims that new Romney adviser Ed Gillespie “was a lobbyist for a federal individual mandate two years before President Obama embraced the idea.” Contacted about the story, Gillespie responded, “I’ve not advocated for a federal individual mandate.”

The dispute concerns Gillespie’s work, at lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, for the Coalition to Advance Health Care Reform. One of the five principles for reform that group favored was an individual mandate. Note, however, that the coalition launched on May 7, 2007. On June 13 of that year, it was announced that Gillespie would be going to work for the Bush White House, whereupon he stopped lobbying and then severed ties with the firm.

Gillespie’s book Winning Right came out in September 2006, and discussed health care without coming out for a mandate. He wrote that we should

ensure that every emancipated adult capable of providing for his or her health care do so. One way to accomplish this is to use the tax code to gain compliance. Annual filers would have to attest that they have some form of health coverage or else the “standard deduction” on their income tax would be cut in half. Another approach would be the creation of tax-free Health Savings Accounts that would be refunded after a certain period for any use. If after seven years, an individual didn’t use his HAS funds for Health care, the money would be treated like an income tax refund. The inducement of tax-free savings for those who are healthy would provide an incentive for more people to obtain insurance coverage.

Some of the language (“ensure,” “compliance”) sounds pro-mandate, but the actual policies described strongly resemble the proposals of the Bush administration and of Paul Ryan, which very few conservatives have described as the equivalent of a mandate.

Gillespie adds by e-mail today that he “thought the tax code and insurance reforms were the best way to get everyone covered. I stopped lobbying for QGA six weeks after CAHR was launched, there was no consensus in CAHR for a mandate at that time, and I was not tasked with lobbying for one.”

UPDATE: I have spoken to someone deeply involved in the establishment of CAHR who confirms that Gillespie did not lobby for an individual mandate. He did not, however, wish to be quoted.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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