Email #104, Subject: “Mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance”?

The health care replacement bill eliminates the ACA’s tax penalty for anyone who doesn’t sign up for insurance. That mandate is by far Obamacare’s most controversial and unpopular element, and you and the GOP have been fighting it for years.

But for not decades. In the 90s, you supported the individual mandate. “In 1993, in fighting ‘Hillarycare,’” explained former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 2012, “virtually every conservative saw the mandate as a less dangerous future than what Hillary was trying to do.” 1993 is also the year you first took office, and GOP opposition to President Clinton’s health care plan was your first big Congressional fight. And you won it. Congress blocked the Clinton plan.

But you did it by proposing what now is called Obamacare. Its centerpiece—that tax penalty—was proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation. They explained in 1989: “If a young man wrecks his Porsche and has not had the foresight to obtain insurance, we may commiserate, but society feels no obligation to repair his car. But health care is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance.”

And so, the Heritage Foundation concluded, there’s only one solution: “Mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance.”

That’s the origin of the Obamacare “mandate.” Republican Governor and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney enacted it successfully in Massachusetts, and President Obama, abandoning Clinton’s 1993 approach, adopted it for the ACA. You won. The Republican health care plan is law.

Which is why it’s so perverse to see you and the rest of the GOP so adamantly opposed to the ACA now. Your replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, strikes the mandated tax and so as a result can’t pay for itself. That’s why fiscal conservatives originally invented the mandate, and why so many fiscal conservatives are opposing the replacement bill right now.

The AHCA both does less and costs more. It’s the worst of both worlds.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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