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I want to join Nicki and Charlotte in commenting on Judge Vinson’s ruling yesterday that the individual mandate in the health care law is unconstitutional.

I thought it was worth noting Judge Vinson’s final footnote in the decision, where he writes:

On this point, it should be emphasized that while the individual mandate was clearly “necessary and essential” to the Act as drafted, it is not “necessary and essential” to health care reform in general.

I couldn’t agree more. Here at IWF we wrote continuously about market-based reform options that would have allowed us to keep the foundation of our current health care system, while increasing portability, allowing for greater individual control over their health care, driving down costs and improving care. (I urge anyone interested in alternative policies to check out what Michael Cannon at The Cato Institute has written here and here.)

But, what’s really interesting about Judge Vinson’s ruling is what’s hidden at the bottom of this last footnote. As Vinson points out, President Obama rejected the notion of an individual mandate while campaigning in 2008.

He points to a CNN interview with Anchor John Roberts where Obama strongly criticizes the idea of “forcing people to buy health insurance.” Here’s a lengthy excerpt (emphasis added):

ROBERTS: The real difference between you and Senator Clinton is that you make your health care plan available to everyone. She would mandate coverage. You do have a mandate for children, we asked her about that this morning. Here’s what she had to say?


CLINTON: And the idea that you would have parents going uninsured who are the main stays of their families while they are required to cover their children makes absolutely no sense. So, I think both on the merits and on the politics, his approach is just not doable. It doesn’t really represent democratic values or solving the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Senator, she suggests you’re falling short here by mandating coverage for children but not mandating it for their parents. What do you say?

OBAMA: Let’s break down what she really means by a mandate. What’s meant by a mandate is that the government is forcing people to buy health insurance and so she’s suggesting a parent is not going to buy health insurance for themselves if they can afford it. Now, my belief is that most parents will choose to get health care for themselves and we make it affordable.

Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate. I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house. The reason they don’t buy a house is they don’t have the money. And so, our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident if people have a chance to buy high-quality health care that is affordable, they will do so. That’s what our plan does and nobody disputes that.

ROBERTS: Now, there are a couple of issues out there in regard to that…

OBAMA: John, I’ve got to say, everybody’s got experts. I’ve got President Clinton’s former secretary of labor, Robert Reich who says my plan is superior, cuts costs, and more likely to achieve universal coverage. I mean, the truth is that we both have a plan to provide universal coverage. There’s a technical difference in terms of how we approach it. I believe that the most important thing is to drive down costs first. Here in Massachusetts, the state where I’m broadcasting from, they have a mandate, but they’ve had to exempt 20% of the uninsured because those folks still can’t afford it. And you’ve got some people who are not paying fines but also still don’t have health insurance. And that’s what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to put people in a position where they can’t afford it but they’re not getting fined by the government, or as Senator Clinton put it, they’re having it taken out of their paychecks.

The American public has rejected the idea of the government getting into the business of health care for a long time. It overwhelmingly opposed the bill at the time that it passed last spring, and it continues to reject it today. It’s time the White House and Congress start listening.