In 1993, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed the concept of a national individual mandate, saying on Meet the Press, “I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance — individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance.” He reiterated the principle in 2007 — writing in a Des Moines Register op-ed, “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance” — and again in 2008: “Finally, we should insist that everyone above a certain level buy coverage (or, if they are opposed to insurance, post a bond).” His for-profit think tank, the Center for Health Transformation (CHT), still promotes the concept on its website, writing, “Anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond.”
But since the requirement is also included in the Affordable Care Act, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is against it and believes it to be unconstitutional. During an interview with the Union Leader on Monday, he announced that despite the long public record, he actually “never focused on it much on the federal level”:
GINGRICH: I never focused on it much on the federal level. I talked about it at the center, at the state level and what we were trying to solve, we just concluded you couldn’t do it, it was too hard…As you work through it, at the time it was designed to block Hillarycare and the more you thought about it, the more you realized, a Congress that can compel you to do something like that, could compel you to do anything. What’s the limit to Congress’ power to dictate your life? And that, I think, will be heart of the argument at the Supreme Court?
The limit is actually fairly clear. The Supreme Court grants the Congress broad deference in regulating the country’s economic activities, so long as the activity is itself economic in nature. And since we all have bodies and they all get old and sick, health care costs are shifted to other payers throughout the country. In 2008, the government spent $43 billion providing uncompensated care to uninsured individuals. In that sense, even the failure to buy a product constitutes an “economic activity.”