Highway to health care

In light of all the analysis, all the comments, all the rhetoric, and all the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Big Decision on Obamacare, this column should totally talk about something else this week. Yeah, right.

A review of the individual mandate is in order, because irony abounds here. Because the accursed, hated, individual mandate (IM) of the Affordable Health Care Act that was a big part of why the thing ended up in the Supreme Court was, in the beginning, a Republican idea!

Cut to November ’93. In response to the health care legislation that the Clintons are trying like hell to get through Congress, a cadre of Repubs, including guys like Alan Simpson, John Warner and Bob Dole, introduce the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993. In it, we find, “Effective 1-1-05 [notice the 12 year cushion], each individual who is a citizen of the United States shall be covered under a qualified health plan.” And to any citizen who didn’t play ball with this new law, “there is hereby imposed a tax on the failure of any individual to comply with the requirements” (emphasis mine).

If I may digress, what happened to guys like Dole, Warner and Simpson, Republicans you could actually converse with and walk away not wanting to strangle the bastard with his own entrails? (Well, Simpson was a bit of a ball breaker). Now, you’ve got a GOP led by pugnacious, obstinate obstructionists like Boehner, Kantor, Rove, Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity. Forehead, meet cinder block.

Back to that mandate. Just because the Republican plan didn’t pass in ’93 doesn’t mean they gave up on the IM. Far from it. In fact, it shows up in Republican proposals well into the ’00s. Indeed, when a certain governor from a certain state in New England had the chance to sign the IM into law, he did so. Romneycare includes the IM. Romney realized, as Obama realized, as every functioning national health care system in the world realizes—you have to force the young, healthy people to buy health insurance or the whole damned house of wax melts down.

In fact, the Republicans of ’09 were still sorta into the IM. This is just before Republicans across the country started consuming 500 mg of powdered bovine sphincter on a daily basis, as ordered by the lovely and talented Grover Norquist. But something happened in ’09 that caused the Republicans to abandon the IM like heiresses fleeing a limo full of ticks. That something was when President Obama begrudgingly accepted the IM into his health plan. At that point, the Repubs bailed. Very interesting.

As a rational, easy-goin’ American, what exactly am I to make of this? And why didn’t Tea Party types pitch a super hissy over every state in the Union mandating car insurance?