In July 2009, Mitt Romney called on President Obama to require Americans to buy insurance as part of his health care plan, using “tax penalties” as a backstop — in other words, the individual mandate that Republicans virulently oppose.
In a USA Today op-ed titled “Mr. President, what’s the rush?,” which is also available on MittRomneyCentral.com, Romney urged Obama to “learn a thing or two about health care reform” from his Massachusetts plan that contained the same policy, and touted it as effective.
“First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance,” Romney wrote. “Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”
Obama opposed that approach in his 2008 campaign, and was not on board with it at the time of Romney’s op-ed, but eventually adopted it in the sweeping bill that became law March 2010. Republican voters strongly decry the mandate as egregious federal overreach, and Romney has vowed to repeal the entire law if elected President.
The revelation could damage the GOP presidential frontrunner, who has been attacked by conservatives for enacting a similar law as “Obamacare,” but has defended himself by saying such an approach is acceptable on a state level, not a federal level.
But the July 30, 2009 op-ed, dug up by Andrew Kaczynski, makes no such distinction. In fact it implies that the Massachusetts plan is ideal as a federal approach. Romney wrote that “the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find” a “better way.”
Conservatives wasted no time taking aim at Romney.
“Democrats would have waited to spring this on us in the general election,” wrote CNN contributor Erick Erickson at his blog RedState. “Friends, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, we will be unable to fight Obama on an issue that 60% of Americans agree with us on.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.