Health Care Flip-Flop

Judging by the dozen or so lawsuits filed by state attorney generals across the country against the recently passed health care reform bill and the raucous attempts to delay its passage, you would think that the ideas and policies in what they describe as “Obamacare” would be the absolute anathema of Republican and conservative values. You might be surprised, then, to find out that the bill is not only very similar to former Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, but that many of the policies in the bill were proposed by Republican senators and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, nearly twenty years ago.

Yes, despite Republican talking points about how the bill is ultra-partisan, and that President Obama didn’t listen to any of their ideas, two of the most criticized parts of the bill are actually Republican ideas.

Let’s take a look at the first: the health insurance mandate. The health insurance mandate was first proposed by President Richard Nixon – a Republican – in the 1970s as an alternative to a single-payer proposal. In 1989 and again in 1993, the Heritage Foundation also proposed a health insurance mandate as the basis for its solution to the health care crisis. Even Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley authored a bill in 1993 pushing a health insurance mandate as a free market-based alternative to the Clinton health care reform proposal. For these senators and other Republicans to claim that a health insurance mandate is now “totalitarianism” and “unconstitutional” is farcical and belies the hyper-partisanship of the Republican Party today.

Then there is the tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans, which are expensive and provide super comprehensive coverage that is usually only affordable to the wealthy. Of course, it was Senator John McCain that campaigned on health care reform with the idea of taxing these “Cadillac” health insurance plans during his Presidential bid. Now, according to Republicans, this tax is apparently outrageous, even if the tax is one of the only few ways to make sure that a market-based health care reform system does not explode the deficit.

Ultimately, the Republicans are desperate to use whatever talking points are popular, despite the fact that they have supported or continue to support the ideas in the health care reform bill. Republican politicians like Mitt Romney and Orrin Hatch are showing political cowardice to the irate Tea Party movement, despite the fact that they know that the passed health care reform is reasonable, moderate, and works in the system they support. It’s a sad reflection on what the “Grand Old Party” has become.

Jon Wong is a UCI alumnus, graduating in June 2009. He can be reached at