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“We Must Have An Individual Mandate”

When the Boston Globe reported last year that Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial team had wiped clean hard drives and even paid to take them home with them at the end of his term in 2006, one couldn’t help but wonder: what were they trying so hard to hide? The Romney crew seems unlikely to be indulging in office porn. Maybe some secret hot-cocoa recipes?

Well, today we got a hint. Romney knew that lurking in those hard drives was evidence of policy-minded reasonableness. And apparently, despite his team’s best efforts, a few traces of it were left behind, which the Wall Street Journal turned up in a freedom-of-information request:

In Massachusetts, Mr. Romney didn’t include an individual mandate in his original proposal, but soon adopted the idea. The emails show his aides later came to champion it, even amid uncertainty from some Democrats. At the time, the mandate was a favored policy of the right, with the left instead pushing for government-run insurance programs.
“We must have an individual mandate for any plan to work,” Tim Murphy, Mr. Romney’s health secretary, wrote the governor and several aides on Feb. 16, 2006, in an email analyzing the latest confidential Democratic proposal, which he wrote was “unclear” about that requirement.
That Democratic proposal, obtained by the Journal, didn’t include such a mandate, and instead focused on “individual responsibility,” aiming to “encourage individuals to buy health insurance, not go uninsured.”
According to the emails, Mr. Romney personally drafted an op-ed article published in The Wall Street Journal the day before he signed the legislation. The draft, written on a Saturday, also defended the individual mandate, in different language from the final version of the piece as published.
Using an argument deployed today by the Obama administration, Mr. Romney defended the mandate by noting that taxpayers generally foot the bill when the uninsured seek health care. “Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian,” the published op-ed stated. In a line that didn’t make the edited version, Mr. Romney added: “An uninsured libertarian might counter that he could refuse the free care, but under law, that is impossible—and inhumane.”

It gets even better—in discussing how to hold employers responsible for providing coverage to their workers, a Romney aide suggested, in place of a financial penalty, a public shaming strategy:

“I know the dems hate this, but we can also [throw] back in the Gov’s original notion of having some sort of ’public disclosure’ of employers who promote a culture of uninsurance,” wrote Cindy Gillespie, a top Romney adviser, to other officials Feb. 13, 2006. 
Ms. Gillespie suggested asking companies to provide quarterly reports on their number of uninsured workers and publishing the list as an ad in the Boston Globe. “The Globe would love it and it would keep the issue of the uninsured front and center,” she wrote.

Wow. A Republican administration urging corporate disclosure and public brow-beating by the liberal media. No way this guy is going to get the support of a national business lobby sharply opposed to universal health coverage and the individual insurance mandate, right? Oh, wait...

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