Mitt Romney doubled down on his claims that the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich originated the concept of the individual mandate during an interview with the editor & publisher of the Union Leader yesterday. He also made a strong case for the individual mandate and rebuffed Republican claims that requiring people to purchase health care coverage will lead to further government intrusion:
ROMNEY: There are a lot of responsibilities that people have. Someone might say, ‘look I’m just going to expect the government to feed me.’ No, you got a responsibility to feed yourself. You’ve got the wherewithal to feed yourself and care for yourself, you can’t just expect the government to give you free food. We pretty much do insist on people to care for themselves. What’s unusual about health is that an individual says, ‘I’m well, but if I fall into a coma, or get cancer or heart attack, the cost of that treatment is so much larger than my ability to pay, that I can’t care for myself unless I have something like insurance that will cover that exceptional burden.’
The Obama administration takes this argument one step further in their legal defense of the Affordable Care Act. It argues that health insurance is also unique because its market will collapse unless everyone buys coverage. Since the Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, it must also ensure that nearly everyone carries insurance. If patients can wait until they get sick to buy insurance, they will drain all the money out of an insurance plan that they have not previously paid into, leaving nothing left for the rest of the plan’s consumers, and eventually destroying the entire individual health insurance market. By contrast, there is no risk that the national market for vegetables or other consumer goods will collapse if Congress does not require people to purchase broccoli, so a “vegetable mandate” simply does not fit within Congress’ constitutional power to ensure that its economic regulations are effective in the same way that a requirement to carry insurance does.