Rick Santorum regularly highlights his conservative record on health care reform by touting his successful election against former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-PA), a Democratic champion of universal health care reform who campaigned on guaranteeing insurance for all Americans by encouraging employers and employees to share the cost of health benefits. “When I ran for the Senate in 1994, I ran against the man who was the author of Hillarycare in the United States Senate,” Santorum told Charles Krauthammer during an appearance on Fox News in October. “And I ran on a patient-driven, consumer-driven health healthcare system that is consistent with the philosophy of America, which is free markets, build it from the bottom up.” He expanded on the message following his surprising second-place finish in Iowa, “I’ve never been for government-run health care, never,” Santorum said to a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire on Jan. 5. “Unlike the other two folks who are running here, who have supported individual mandates, who have supported top-down government health care, I never have.”
But as The French Revolution’s Nancy French discovers, Santorum did advocate for an individual requirement to purchase health insurance coverage — not in his general election challenge to Wofford, but in the Republican primary against businessman Joe Watkins. Watkins also backed the provision:
Allentown, PA’s Morning Call from April 7, 1994:
U.S. Rep. Rick Santorum, R-Pittsburgh area, and Joe Watkins, a Philadelphia businessman who worked in the Bush White House, are seeking the Republican Senate nomination, creating the only true Senate primary race….Santorum and Watkins both called for a “comprehensive restructuring” of health care. But they differed sharply on what elements should comprise a basic benefits package.
Watkins would include mental health services, long-term care, prescription drug coverage, dental services and preventive care such as immunizations. Santorum would not. Both reject abortion services. Santorum and Watkins both oppose having businesses provide health care for their employees. Instead, they would require individuals to purchase insurance. Both oppose higher taxes on alcohol or tobacco to help pay for care. They also oppose government-run health care and disagree with controls on doctor or hospital fees. They would cap malpractice awards.
Allentown, PA’s Morning Call from May 2, 1994:
Santorum and Watkins would require individuals to buy health insurance rather than forcing employers to pay for employee benefits. Both oppose abortion services and support limits on malpractice awards. Santorum says non-economic damages should not exceed $ 250,000, adjusted annually for inflation, and lawyers’ contingency fees should be capped at 25 percent. [...]
Santorum introduced the idea of a medical savings account, called Medisave, which has become part of the Gramm bill. Under it, workers would buy major medical insurance and could make tax-free contributions to a Medisave account, from which they would pay for preventive services.
Many Republicans who now argue that the Affordable Care Act’s individual requirement is unconstitutional supported a national mandate as an alternative to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care proposal. In that sense, Santorum is in very good company. He joins Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Chuck Grassley, and Orrin Hatch and a growing list of prominent Republicans who came out against the conservative principle of personal responsibility in health care as soon as President Obama endorsed it.