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GOP Hypocrisy, Part Many « The Washington Independent

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) — who tomorrow will join a growing list of state officials to file suit against the individual mandate in the Democrats’ health reform law — explained to Fox News today that he’s doing so because he’s “concerned about the Constitution.”

“It doesn’t bother me that every Republican is standing up for the Constitution and the rights of Americans and the Democrats are opposed to that,” he said, referring to his attorney general, a Democrat, who has refused to file the suit through her office. ”That shows their partisan politics, and they’re becoming the party of, ‘No, don’t interfere with our attempt to take over all of the health care industry in this country.’ This is a serious, serious infringement and erosion of the constitutional rights of Americans.”

It’s at times like this that it’s worth mentioning that the individual mandate was first pushed by conservatives as an alternative to a proposed requirement that businesses offer health benefits to all their workers.

In a telling piece published earlier this year, NPR health care reporter Julie Rovner spoke with one of the architects of that proposal, the conservative University of Pennsylvania health economist Mark Pauly. More than 20 years back, Pauly told Rovner:

“A group of economists and health policy people, market-oriented, sat down and said, ‘Let’s see if we can come up with a health reform proposal that would preserve a role for markets but would also achieve universal coverage.’ ”

The idea of the individual mandate was about the only logical way to get there, Pauly says.

Additionally, the individual mandate was seen as a way to to prevent those without insurance from sticking the bill to everyone else in times of medical emergency.

“We called this responsible national health insurance,” Pauly told Rovner. “There was a kind of an ethical and moral support for the notion that people shouldn’t be allowed to free-ride on the charity of fellow citizens.”

Indeed, it was the individual mandate, Rovner writes, that Republicans included in a 1993 proposal that was designed to compete with the employer mandate pushed by the Clinton administration at the time. Some pretty conservative lawmakers — including Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) — were behind that proposal.

Funny that two decades later the idea is suddenly deemed unconstitutional.

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