Yes, Mitt Romney Flip-Flopped on the Mandate

Earlier this week, Glenn Kessler, author of The Washington Post's Fact Checker column, took issue with the following Democratic National Committee ad accusing Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on his support for requiring people to buy health insurance:

Kessler says the accusation doesn't fly:

Romney has been consistent in saying that he would apply a state-based approach to health care. He has said the individual mandate worked well for Massachusetts, he may have even predicted that most other states would eventually adopt it, but he has never advocated or supported a federal mandate — as contained in the president’s law.

Romney may not have ever said "I support a federal mandate to purchase health insurance" in so many words, but if you look at his record, it's hard to conclude that he did not support copying the Massachusetts plan at the federal level, including the mandate—which is essentially what Democrats did with ObamaCare. 

As Kessler notes, Romney has repeatedly stated his belief that the Massachusetts plan should be a model for the nation. Sometimes he has said that the plan can provide lessons for other states. But at other times, he has recommended that Washington's leaders, including President Obama, follow the Bay State's lead. As Matt Welch previously noted, in a 2009 USA Today op-ed framed as a message to the president (title: "Mr. President, What's the Rush?"), Romney criticized the legislative process of previous Obama administration priorities and declared: "There’s a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it." Among those lessons? 

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar. [bold added]

There you have it. In the summer of 2009, as the health care debate was reaching one of its most heated moments, Romney argued to President Obama that the federal government would be well served by adopting Massachusetts-style tax penalties for the uninsured—in other words, a mandate. 

The Romney campaign maintains that this doesn't prove anything. The campaign claims that Romney was merely suggesting that those who decline to purchase health insurance should be required to forego a tax credit or deduction. In a separate Newsweek op-ed, published several months earlier than the USA Today piece, Romney makes this suggestion. 

Even if this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it's not much of a defense. In that same piece, Romney frames these policies as possible ways to "get everyone insured," which, despite talk of "unleashing market forces," he seems to believe is the job of government policymakers. It's clear, then, that Romney favors reworking the tax code in order to penalize the uninsured. But please don't call it a mandate! 

More to the point, however, is that the USA Today op-ed is very open in arguing that federal policymakers, President Obama in particular, can learn lessons from the policies implemented in Massachusetts, which has a mandate. Yet since then, he's denied ever favoring a federal mandate. And for the most part, he's gotten away with it. 

Read my cover story on Romney from the March issue. 

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  • Suki||

    Can we declare Romney the Republican John F. Kerry (who went to Vietnam) and move on?

  • shrike||

    Romney is far worse than Kerry (who was bad). He is completely out of step with the Tea Party/GOP.

    Yesterday when pressed on cutting spending all he came up with was Planned Parenthood and PBS (or some little program). He is pro-mandate. He is for killing spending cuts already passed.

    Romney is fucking awful no matter which team you are on.

  • Suki||

    That is *worse* than Kerry?

  • ||

    But his national campaign will consist solely of reminding everyone that Mittens, for all his squishiness, mediocrity and vanilla - hasn't spent the last 3 and half years actively destroying America - so he's got that going for him.

  • ||

    hasn't spent the last 3 and half years actively destroying America - so he's got that going for him.

    Thank You for endorsing my campaign for President.

  • Phat Indian||

    Romney is fucking awful no matter which team you are on.

    Holy Shit! Shrike and I agree on something! Call Ripley's!

  • ||

    He could have been talking about tax penalties for people who use medical services without having insurance. Which wouldn't be a bad idea, other than the fact that it's unconstitutional IMHO (but not in SCOTUS') at the federal level.

    That's not the same thing as a mandate, which applies to everyone who merely draws breath.

  • ||

    SHILL BABY SHILL

  • Commentariat GOP Shill||

    God, Epi, you really are the worst.

  • ||

    there's not a measurement system in existence capable of quantifying this level of psychological projection.

  • ||

    Projection? That's such an original thing to say when someone disagrees with you!

    And considering half of Epi's posts are also about how someone else is engaging in projection, it makes me wonder who our fried wylie is in real life.

  • ||

    And this content free Episiarch post is brought to you by King's Restaurant.

  • Applederry||

    Since he specifically said tax penalties "as we did" then it depends on if the Mass health care law did or does use such penalties. Otherwise it sounds like he's talking about a mandate.

  • ||

    He probably was, but there is some weasel room.

  • ||

    Yeah, I would really want to hang my hat on "I didn't support a mandate, I supported tax penalties. TAX PENALTIES! What part of tax penalties don't you understand, dammit!"

  • ||

    fucking peasants, etc...oneoneone

  • sarcasmic||

    C'mon! That pic is just begging for an alt-text!

  • Almanian||

    CAPTION:

    "I pulled this microphone out of my ass....just like most of my 'policy positions' on any given day."

  • Libertarian2||

    "Pardon the crudity of my Massachusetts model. I didn't have much time. Now........back to the future!!"

  • MNG||

    Pfft, it would save us a lot of time if you'd just write articles on the few things he has not flip-flopped on.

  • ||

    Here cometh the accommodator-in-chief.

  • Obamacare waiver czar||

    sorry, that position is already taken.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind.

  • Almanian||

    *eyes narrowed to slits staring at Fist*

    OK, that was pretty goddamn good...

  • Ska||

    Are you mocking Mr. Miyagi now?

  • Suki||

    Deciduous or non-deciduous?

  • Almanian||

    I'm pretty sure "either"

  • ||

    the Massachusetts plan should be a model for the nation

    In no context, ever, does this expression evaluate as True.

  • sarcasmic||

    Does that mean a model for the federal government to impose on the states, or a model for individual states to implement themselves?

  • ||

    Both.

    Again, I wouldn't want to hang my campaign on "I wanted every state to implement this. Not the federal government. EVERY STATE! What part of that don't you understand, dammit!"

  • ||

    fucking not-understanding-the-simplest-thing peasants.

  • omnibot||

    Why is nobody covering Shaq vs Canseco MMA?
    http://ufcnews.org/shaq-vs-jos.....n-mma.html

  • ||

    OT: What's the most libertarian state?

  • Almanian||

    Libertopia. Duh!

  • ||

    None of them. Next question?

  • Suki||

    Somalia

  • whitoied||

    why the agricultural city-state

  • Applederry||

    I would say solids. Solids mind their own business and have a consistent principle while liquids are flip-floppers and gases have no concern for personal space.

  • ||

    That's a phase, not a state.

  • Arka||

    States of matter are the distinct forms that different phases of matter take on

  • ||

    Lol. An Internet -- you have won it.

  • ||

    The Moon.

  • wareagle||

    ecstasy

  • Trespassers W||

    Eleuthera.

  • Hank Hill||

    I have a tiny Eleuthera.

  • Bingo||

    Mitt Romney is boring, can we talk about how Olivia Munn is a nasty little freak? I thought she was over-rated in the looks department until someone hacked her cellphone and posted that shit she sent her boyfriend.

  • omnibot||

    links or gtfo

  • sarcasmic||

    Ever heard of google.com? It's this really cool thing called a "search engine" where you type things in, things like, I dunno, olivia munn phone hacked, and then it returns links based upon your search criteria. It's really cool. You should check it out sometime.

  • Arka||

    google tells us they are fake

  • Bingo||

    http://imgur.com/a/zqd8J
    http://imgur.com/a/Am6W8#1

    NSFW obviously

    It's not just the nood pics, its the fact that apparently she writes kinky captions all over shit she sent her BF.

  • Almanian||

    Literally never heard of her. Google - STILL have no idea who this person is. Never seen anything she's been in.

  • Suki||

    Her whole name is Lady Google.

  • sarcasmic||

    I saw her hosting a few things on G4 a while back (Attack of the Show, Sasuke), but not much since.

  • Bingo||

    She's been trying to leverage her "geek girl" gimmick to other career paths and has failed miserably so far. The fact that she was considered an A-list nerd celebrity says a lot about how desperate geek culture is to seem hip.

  • wareagle||

    I hear she applied to G'town Law in hopes of taking Fluke's seat when the latter drops the amateur status and moves on to being professional agitator.

  • ||

    Let's try this again, minus anarchist trolling (sorry, guys, but you know who you are).

    What's the most freedom-leaning state in the Union?

  • sarcasmic||

    I know that when I finally leave Maine we'll be settling in New Hampshire.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know whether to hope that it is New Hampshire (because I live there) or not (because, like all states, it's really not all that libertarian). I've never really lived anywhere else, so that's all I've got.

  • Zeb||

    Any idea where in NH you want to live?

  • sarcasmic||

    My wife has family in the Merrimack area.

  • ||

    Most likely, that would be Idaho. New Hampshire would be in the running, but it's too close to Massachusetts and therefore is influenced by it.

    [Aside: In particular, it rejected Rick Perry, the closest candidate to a libertarian-conservative (and therefore, the only semi-pro-liberty-leaning candidate with a chance to take the nomination, destroyed by the media).]

    It came in 2nd in that libertopia contest a few years ago.

  • Bingo||

    What's the most freedom-leaning state in the Union?


    apathy

  • ||

    Illinois leans it a full 180 degrees.

  • ||

    Sorry RPA, I haven't lived in enough states to have an informed opinion so I had to joke like everyone else.

    Pennsylvania is probably the freest state I've lived in. Other than the alcohol insanity at least.

  • Suki||

    Still a trick question. If you meant State, like North Carolina, you would have used proper capitalization.

  • Suki||

    As a non-resident viewing from afar in NJ, my vote is for Texas. Mostly because of taxes, gun owner rights and property rights as I hear about them from time to time.

  • ||

    It helps that Texas law specifically authorizes you to shoot a law enforcement officer as part of your right to self-defense.

  • Applederry||

    Mercatus center tried to quantify freedom in each state here.

    It's too hard to quantify. Any answer anyone here comes up with will have somebody pointing out some horrible thing that state does, they all have something.

  • sarcasmic||

    Looks like the sarcasmic family agrees with Mercatus.

  • Suki||

    That "map" is a rectangle of "most free" in my browser.

  • omnibot||

    Go to Grand Forks. ND is pretty free, and I hear they have a great Olive Garden.

  • ||

    Florida. Unfortunately, our libertarians are being held hostage by crazy people and pythons.

    It used to be some of the Western states, but I don't think that's true anymore. We're all corrupted by the statist plague.

  • ||

    screw that - I want to know the most Libertarian country.

  • Suki||

    Somalia?

  • omnibot||

    Estonia.

  • Libertarian||

    Only 9 states without income tax:
    Alaska
    Florida
    Nevada
    NH
    S. Dakota
    Texas
    Tennessee
    Washington
    Wyoming

    Alaska is so damn big you could probably go there and as long as you weren't in a town, do pretty much what you wanted.

  • Sevo||

    "Yes, Mitt Romney Flip-Flopped on the Mandate"

    You weren't watching carefully.
    He said "yes" out of the right side of his mouth.
    When he says "no", it's out of the left side.
    Not flip-flopping; his right side doesn't agree with his left. Sorta like Obama. In fact, too much like Obama...

  • ||

    Yet since then, he's denied ever favoring a federal mandate. And for the most part, he's gotten away with it.

    I still think he will repeal the mandate along with most of Obama care (actually congress will and he will sign it).....and I still will not be voting for him.

  • ||

    I still think he will repeal the mandate along with most of Obama care

    I don't. Assuming narrow(ish) Repub majorities in both House and Senate, I predict a long, vicious fight over ObamaCare, resulting in a 600 page "bipartisan" "reform" bill that accomplishes the seemingly impossible - making ObamaCare worse.

  • wareagle||

    hard to imagine what "worse" could entail after today's report on projected costs.

  • Zeb||

    It's not that hard. Imagine today's projected costs multiplied by 2. You can keep going from there. Even without specifics it is pretty safe to assume that the government can and will waste as much money as it can get away with.

  • Jerryskids||

    You obviously have no imagination whatsoever. Double the projected costs, which means price controls, consider that the 20% or so of doctors and nurses that will quit the field will lead to rationing, add the doubling of bureaucratic red tape which means nobody gives a shit about the patients, only the paperwork, and you have something out of a Terry Gilliam film.

    There is a zero percent chance Obamacare will be repealed, there will be no fight over it. The "reform" proposals will be over whether you prefer to be ass-raped or fucked up the ass - a distinction without a difference.

  • ||

    He wont go near Obamacare. He is for these health care mandates the same reason Obama is: It makes the health care industry rich.

  • Libertarian||

    It is sooooooooooooooooo depressing. The GOP could get the White House and both houses of Congress, and you know what? They STILL WOULD NOT repeal Obamacare.

  • ||

    lol, they Are ALL bought and paid for, every one of them.

    www.World-Anon.tk

  • Leigh||

    OK, keep at it, my goodness, you're right. Let's belabor it as much as possible and walk Obama back in November '12. Really, there's no point in even trying.

  • Mike||

    More tortured reasoning by anti-Mitters trying to say he supported a federal mandate. Yawn. He did not.

  • ||

    There's a difference between creating a program that requires people to stop freeloading and buy their own insurance (Mass) and a ginormous stack of paper that takes over the entire health care system (Obamacare). Romney actually came at the Mass law from a conservative standpoint -- getting people who could buy their own insurance to do so and quit abusing gov programs. Obama approaches from a progressive standpoint -- get more people ON gov programs and stop taking care of themselves.

  • matt||

    spin... wow, your guy is getting toasted and as a writer you compromise your morals to stick up for him

  • ||

    How many times can this be brough up again and again and again. Yes, he has a position that requires more than 3 brain cells to understand. But at no point did Romney ever endorse a federal mandate and in every quote people give that "proves" he did, when you listen to the full context, in the next sentence he almost always says "...but not at the federal level -- that unconstitutional. States are the laboratory of democracy, etc".

    The fact that simple minded political trolls keep labeling him as a flip-flopper makes me weep for the political future of America.

  • ||

    Wasn't this hashed out like two weeks ago? In this very same op-ed he endorses national heathcare reform plans that do not have a mandate! Romney has been quite consistent in saying that he does not like a one size fits all national health care mandate like the ones pushed by Gingrich, Hillary, and Obama.

  • ||

    The point is, he supported a national health-care program, and even gave Obama suggestions on how to craft one, in his 2007 USA Today cloumn
    That makes Romney a liar. He has repeatedly told debate viewers that he has never supported a national health care law.

  • newtsarmy||

    The reasons why Mitt and Rick are just fresh meat for Obama’s re-election.

    They do not energize the conservative base and are Mickey Mouse debaters at best!

  • ||

    In that 2009 op-ed, Romney did NOT advocate a federal mandate. This statement -- "Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others." -- is NOT about a federal mandate. The federal mandate is NOT a tax penalty. It is a flat out requirement that individuals must buy a government defined health policy.

    In that same 2009 op-ed Romney did mention federal mandates. He said that a single-payer federal government insurance company "would inevitably lead to massive taxpayer subsidies, to lobbyist-inspired coverage mandates and to the liberals’ dream: a European-style single-payer system." Notice that Romney was AGAINST federal "coverage mandates."

    Those of you who read that 2009 op-ed as advocating a federal mandate really need to learn to read English.

  • ||

    Why would he keep addressing Romney personally, in his op-ed...telling him how to work with the other party, to get things done. He was advocating a bi-partisan national health-care law, no matter how you slice it.

  • ||

    addressing Obama, that is

  • ||

    I'm sure Obama will go after Romney very vigorously for supporting a mandate. (sarc. off)

  • ||

    He'll go after him for being a panderer, and a liar, with no core principles.

  • ||

    LOL yet more "this we what we WANTED Mitt to say" BS. NO HE DOESN'T. Stop trying to twist & distort his words & actions.

  • ||

    Sorry, man. You are making an inference about what Romney meant, and Romney says you're wrong. There is no way for you to prove you're right. The fact remains that Romney has a possible (even if unlikely) explanation of how he intended his op-ed to be understood. You can't win this argument. There is nothing necessary about your interpretation of Romney's words. Honestly, I would expect better of a "Reason" writer.

  • ||

    Romney will repeal Obamacare
    Obama will shove it down our throats
    PERIOD

  • ||

    The mandate is the only issue Romney has not switched positions. Another supporter of intrusive big government on personal decisions.
    Please brokered convention, recruit Mitch Daniels who actually did shrink government in Indiana.

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