In 2008, Mitt Romney campaigned with a health care plan that sounded an awful lot like it included the dreaded individual mandate, the thing conservatives hate most about his Massachusetts health care law, not to mention Obamacare."The Romney Plan," his campaign literature said four years ago, as BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reports, included this bullet point: "Stop The Free-Riders. Use some of the money currently spent on expensive 'free care' for the uninsured at emergency rooms to instead help the truly needy buy heath insurance." The document also notes Romney thinks we should "rely on personal resposibility" and "help people buy their own insurance." Is it another sign of Romney's cynicism that he only came out against a mandate after President Obama was elected and implemented it? We can't tell.
Romney, author of the book No Apologies, refuses to apologize for Romneycare, as some conservatives have said he must do. Instead, he says while the individual mandate was great for his state, it's awful on the federal level. (He promised again to "eliminate Obamacare" at CPAC Friday.) BuzzFeed's reporting indicates Romney thought it might be great as a national plan back in 2008. You could even interpret one line -- "Use a free market, federalist approach to make quality, affordable health insurance available to everyone" -- as supportive of the state health exchanges that Obamacare sets up. But Romney didn't feel that way about the mandate in the fall of 2007. That November, he told Time,
"An individual mandate in most states today -- in all states but one -- would be irresponsible and unfair... Because in most states today, insurance is too expensive."
Back then, everyone thought Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president. Romney's campaign even crafted a "Hillary = France" attack strategy. And Clinton was proposing a mandate, which Romney called "European-style socialism." One thing Romney has been very consistent on: He doesn't like Europe.
If Romney is the Republican nominee, it's possible he'll tweak his language again to run against Obama. The president tried out this line against Romney almost a year ago: "In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he's proud of what he accomplished on health care by giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He's right."