The Corner

A Long History of Opposition to the Individual Mandate

Now that the individual mandate has been found unconstitutional, some on the left are starting to claim it was a conservative idea originally. Some politicians may have spoken out of both sides of their mouth on the subject, but the free-market community has always vigorously opposed the idea. For proof, here’s my colleague Greg Conko, who has been fighting the good fight on health-care issues for long enough that he remembers all this as if it were yesterday:

It’s worth noting, though, that most of us in the free market movement have never embraced the health insurance purchase mandate. And I’m proud to dig out of the archives an old Cato Institute paper (pdf) written by my former CEI colleague Tom Miller (now at the American Enterprise Institute), which roundly criticizes the 1993-94 Republican compromise legislation. Tom found a lot of faults in those bills, and he singled out the individual purchase mandate as being especially egregious. While acknowledging that, from a political perspective, “any legislative alternative to the Clinton plan must guarantee universal coverage,” he wrote:

The most troubling aspect of the Nickles-Stearns legislation, as introduced on November 20 [1993], is the mandate that it imposes on all Americans to purchase a standard package of health insurance benefits. By endorsing the concept of compulsory universal insurance coverage, Nickles-Stearns undermines the traditional principles of personal liberty and individual responsibility that provide essential bulwarks against all-intrusive governmental control of health care.

Tom concluded that, “By failing to provide a clear alternative based on market principles, Nickles-Stearns blurs opposition to Clinton-style health care legislation. By focusing the political debate on the wrong issues, it opens the door to extensive political interference in private health care decisions.” Indeed.

’Nuff said.

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