When Mitt Romney first proposed something like an “individual mandate” for his healthcare reforms in Massachusetts (RomneyCare!), it was a big fucking deal. Time’s Joe Klein gushed over Romney on healthcare in a December 2005 column:
Governor Mitt Romney is a Massachusetts politician with a long, narrow face, an impossible shock of hair and presidential ambitions. He's also pretty tall. But any resemblance to another recent Massachusetts politician who ran for President evaporates the moment Romney opens his mouth: his demeanor and metabolism are the opposite of John Kerry's—informal, conversational, enthusiastic and speedy. Or maybe it was just that we were talking about his rather remarkable plan to bring mandatory universal health-care coverage to Massachusetts by next summer, the first time a Republican has tried to pull off this most Democratic of policy goals.
"I don't like calling it universal coverage," he told me last week. "That smacks of Hillarycare. But I do think we've come up with a way to get everybody covered through the free-market system." Romney's way is not new: policy wonks call it an "individual mandate" system, but the Governor doesn't like that term either. "I call it a personal responsibility system," he said.
Romney had made the move towards an individual mandate a few months earlier, as USA Today reported:
"We can't have as a nation 40 million people — or, in my state, half a million — saying, 'I don't have insurance, and if I get sick, I want someone else to pay,' " says Romney, a Republican who says he might run for president in 2008.
It's the question behind all health care debates: Who should pay?
Romney's plan says everyone should: The state would work harder to enroll all residents eligible for Medicaid; employers, most of whom already offer insurance, would be encouraged to continue doing so voluntarily; and individuals who don't have insurance would have to sign on to one of two new insurance pools, one of which would be subsidized for lower-income residents.
Failing to sign up could lead to a loss of a personal tax exemption or garnishment of wages.
In place of Obamacare, Mitt will pursue policies that give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens. The federal government’s role will be to help markets work by creating a level playing field for competition.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson meanwhile suggested America may need a new Supreme Court in addition to a new president and Congress, and noted that “[n]othing about today’s decision changes the basic reality that it is impossible to eliminate deficit spending and remove the smothering consequences of federal debt without dramatically reducing the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. And neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have given the slightest hint of willingness to do so.” Romney, of course, blasted ObamaCare for cutting Medicare by “approximately 500 billion dollars.”
Complete Reason coverage of ObamaCare.