GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich insists that a national health insurance mandate is unconstitutional, claiming that if lawmakers can ask Americans to purchase health insurance coverage, then Congress “could compel you to do anything.” But the former speaker had in fact supported a national requirement as recently as 2007, and in 2005 made a strong case not just for the provision but also for a “transfer of finances” to help extend coverage to lower income Americans.
Below is an excerpt from a health care debate with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton:
GINGRICH: Some aspect of the working poor has to involve transfer of finances. To ask people in the lowest paying jobs to bear the full burden of their health insurance is just irrational, it’s not going to happen…One of my conclusions in the last six years, funding the Center for Health Transformation, and looking at what our system is, unless you have 100 percent coverage, you can’t have the right preventive care and you can’t have a rational system. [...]
If I see someone who’s earning over $50,000 a year, who has made the calculated decision not to buy health insurance. I’m looking at someone who’s absolutely as irresponsible as anybody who is ever on welfare….I’m actually in favor of saying, whatever the appropriate income is, you ought to either have health insurance, or you ought to post a bond. But we have no room in this society to have a free rider approach if you’re well off economically to say we’ll cheat our neighbors.
During an interview with the Union Leader last week, Gingrich said he “never focused on [the mandate] much on the federal level” and claimed, in direct contradiction of the above remarks, that his work at the Center for Health Transformation convinced him that a mandate wouldn’t work. “We finally concluded that you couldn’t do it, that it was too hard,” he said of the mandate. That too is inaccurate, since the Center’s website still says, “Anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond.”