New emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal show just how strongly Mitt Romney pushed for the individual mandate while he was negotiating healthcare reform in Massachusetts.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he fashioned his health care reform act on the Massachusetts plan, including the mandate, which requires that everyone buy health insurance. Romney, Obama's Republican challenger in the November presidential election, has distanced himself from the Massachusetts healthcare law that he helped author, and as recently as this weekend that he deemed the individual mandate, at the federal level at least, unconstitutional.
In one email published by the Journal, containing a draft of an op-ed article to be submitted to the Wall Street Journal, Romney was an ardent defender of the individual mandate.
“Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian,” the published op-ed stated. In a line that didn’t make the edited version, Mr. Romney added: “An uninsured libertarian might counter that he could refuse the free care, but under law, that is impossible — and inhumane.”
That logic is very similar to that which the Obama administration has used to justify the presence of the individual mandate in the federal law.
It’s remarkable that these emails even exist. When Romney left office, some of his aides removed all the emails from a server in the governor’s office and bought and removed the hard drives from state-owned computers. The recently revealed emails were on another server that the aides missed, and were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Journal.
While wiping out the emails has not been deemed illegal, it has been controversial.
Mark Maremont, Wall Street Journal senior editor, described those efforts as an "electronic housekeeping."
Maremont said the emails that survived provide an interesting counterpoint to the political speeches that Romney has made. In fairness, though, Romney's most strident critique against the individual mandate at the federal level centers on 10th amendment grounds — powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states — and not on the propriety of an individual mandate in general.
The concept of an individual mandate, though, was controversial in Massachusetts when its healthcare reform law was passed — but not with Republicans. Democrats didn't like the idea of fining or taxing individuals who didn't get healthcare, Maremont said.
"The Democrats actually preferred to put the onus, at that point, on employers," he explained.
Marmont said this was deemed a free-market solution to the need to get everyone on the healthcare plan. People aren't forced to get health insurance, but they pay a fine if they don't. That serves as a financial incentive for them to do so.
In another email, Romney talked about how the new Massachusetts healthcare law would help hundreds of thousands of people, leading to happier, healthier lives.
"It's clear that he was in favor of it before he was sort of against it," Maremont said.