Tommy Thompson Supported Individual Health Mandate, Expansion Of Medicaid

Since Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) announced that he would be resigning from the Senate after his term ends in 2013, a slew of potential Democratic candidates — from Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) — have expressed interest in the seat. Politico reports that, on the GOP side, Tommy Thompson — the former two-term Republican Wisconsin Governor and Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush — is jumping into the race, telling friends and colleagues that he plans to pursue the position.

And while politicos predict that Thompson will enter the race as a front-runner, his moderate positions may give pause to conservative activists in the state:

— SUPPORTED THE INDIVIDUAL HEALTH MANDATE: During a symposium in Orlando in September 2008, Thompson said, “Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance.” In 2009, he walked back his support saying, “I’m not opposed to it, I just don’t think it’s the most practical way.” [Miami Herald, 3/23/2010; YouTube, 2/03/2009]

— SAID GOP SHOULDN’T PURSUE REPEALING HEALTH LAW: “When it’s all said and done, you’re not going to be able to repeal health care because President Obama is not going to sign it,” Thompson said during an appearance on CNBC in 2010. “And they don’t have enough votes to override a veto, so why push a cart uphill when you know it’s not going to be able to get to the top?” [CNBC, 11/02/2010]

— PROMOTES SECTIONS OF HEALTH LAW: “The Affordable Care Act gives great discretion to the CMS Administrator to experiment with alternative payment systems. CMS has created an “innovation center” and is looking for ideas,” Thompson wrote just last month. [Huffington Post, 4/20/2011]

— OPPOSES REP. PAUL RYAN’S (R-WI) MEDICARE PLAN: “Simply cutting Medicare isn’t the answer by any means. Instead, let’s focus on the most effective fiscal path forward with the least amount of impact on millions of seniors, their families and our broader economy. In other words, reform Medicare, don’t cut it,” Thompson wrote in April. [Huffington Post, 4/20/2011]

— DEVELOPED STATE’S MEDICAID PROGRAM: As governor in the 1990s, Thompson helped develop BadgerCare into one of the country’s most innovative and generous Medicaid program. [NPR, 2/23/2011]

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has dubbed Thompson “the smartest guy on health care,” but despite his moderate streak, he has done little to expand access to health care. During his four year tenure as President Bush’s point man at the HHS, the number of uninsured increased from 41.2 million to 46.6 million, Thompson pushed through a lobbyist-written prescription drug bill, helped misrepresent the legislation’s true cost, proposed a radical restructuring of the Medicaid program, and “improperly altered a report documenting large racial and ethnic disparities in health care.”

Cross-posed on Wonk Room