Former Fox News host Glenn Beck invited Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich on his radio program this morning and then bludgeoned the former Speaker of the House with this quote from 2011, in which Gingrich proclaimed his support for a federal requirement for people to purchase health insurance coverage — a mandate that is similar to the one included in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act:
GLENN: All right. Well, and I think this is where we fundamentally differ is it seems to me ‑‑ and let me just play the audio here ‑‑ that you are for the individual mandate for healthcare and you have been for quite some time. Let’s play the audio.
GINGRICH: I am for people, individuals, exactly like automobile insurance, individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance, and I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals on a sliding scale a government subsidy so it will ensure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.
GLENN: Okay. That’s 1993. Here is May 2011.
GINGRICH: All of a sudden responsibility to help pay for healthcare. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement to either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you are going to be held accountable.
VOICE: That is the individual mandate, is it not?
GINGRICH: It’s a variation on it.
Fellow GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the conservative Heritage Foundation have also advocated the idea that individuals who did not purchase coverage should be required to spend some pre-determined amount — $10,000 in Romney’s case — in the form of a bond that could be used to pay for hospital care down the road. Before Obama embraced the mandate, conservatives argued that this policy would ensure that funds are directed back into health care rather to government revenue. But charging a flat fee regardless of income means different things to different economic demographics and would significantly disadvantaged middle class families — who would have to set aside a huge amount of money for a rainy day. The mandate penalty in the Affordable Care Act takes some of these affordability concerns into account and requires those without coverage to pay a tax penalty of the greater of $695 per year or 2.5 percent of household income.
But these policy specifics aside, Gingrich has previously advocated for many of the provisions that are now part of Obama’s health care law and even praised the president for increasing Medicaid funding and investing in health information technology.