Gingrich Supports ‘Variation’ on Obamacare-Type Health Insurance Mandate

Terence P. Jeffrey | May 16, 2011 | 10:36am EDT
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, May 15, 2011, where he said he favors a "variation" on the individual insurance mandate. (AP Photo/NBC News, William B. Plowman)

( - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday that he supports requiring all individuals to buy health insurance, post a bond to pay for health care, "or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable"--a position he called a “variation” on the type of individual mandate included in President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law.

Led by Virginia and Florida, a majority of the states are backing lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s individual mandate in federal court. These states argue that the U.S. Constitution simply does not give the federal government the authority to order individual Americans to buy any good or service—something which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government in fact has never done.

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, host David Gregory showed Gingrich a video clip from an appearance he made on the program on October 3, 1993. At that time, Congress was considering President Bill Clinton’s health-care reform proposal--which was never enacted. On that 1993 program, Gingrich said he favored the federal government requiring individuals to buy health insurance and then subsidizing individuals’ purchase of health insurance on a “sliding scale” determined by their income.

 “I am for people, individuals--exactly like automobile insurance--individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance,” Gingrich said in 1993. “And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.”

In President Obama’s health-care law, individuals are required to buy health insurance and the federal government subsidizes the purchase—on a sliding scale—for individuals and families earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level.

On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” Gregory asked Gingrich if his position in 1993 wasn’t “precisely” what Obama enacted in 2010.

“No, it's not precisely what he did,” said Gingrich. 

“In the first place,” the former House speaker explained, “Obama basically is trying to replace the entire insurance system, creating state exchanges, building a Washington-based model, creating a federal system. I believe all of us--and this is going to be a big debate--I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care.  I think the idea that—“

Gregory interrupted at this point and asked if Gingrich agreed with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R.-Mass.) on the insurance mandate. Romney signed a health-care reform law when he was governor of Massachusetts that included a mandate on individuals to buy health insurance.

“Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay--help pay for health care,” said Gingrich. “And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy.  I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable.”

Gregory then asked: “But that is the individual mandate, is it not?”

Gingrich responded: “It's a variation on it.”

When asked whether he would use the individual mandate as an issue against Romney, Gingrich said: “No.”

Gingrich explained that his position was predicated on the belief that if the government did not require individuals to buy health insurance or post a bond, then other people would pay for those peoples’ health care.

“You know, there are an amazing number of people who think that they ought to be given health care,” said Gingrich. “And, and so a large number of the uninsured earn $75,000 or more a year, don't buy any health insurance because they want to buy a second house or a better car or go on vacation. Then you and I and everybody else ends up picking up for them.  I don't think having a free rider system in health is any more appropriate than having a free rider system in any other part of our society.”

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