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Grassley’s opposition to individual insurance mandate comes under fire
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley would not support a health care reform bill that contains individual mandates, regardless of what other compromises are included. But critics contend that Grassley seemed to support the idea throughout the summer, and his newfound opposition is evidence that he is simply trying to obstruct health care reform.
In an interview with Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer, Grassley said even if his other concerns, including insuring illegal immigrants and funding abortion, are soothed, the individual mandate is still a deal breaker.
Several Republican senators have raised concerns of late about the individual mandate, which require all Americans to carry health insurance or face financial penalties, though waivers or discounts would be provided for lower-income Americans.
Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen said Grassley is offering “principal-free opposition” and said “we’re well past the point of expecting intellectual seriousness or consistency from Sen. Chuck Grassley.”
“Why is ‘bipartisan’ health care reform impossible?” Benen asks. “Because leading GOP lawmakers like Chuck Grassley oppose the measures they support.”
Reform advocates say Grassley’s staunch opposition to individual mandates does not match his public rhetoric throughout the health care debate.
During a June 14 interview with Fox News, Grassley said there is a “bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.”
“There isn’t anything wrong with it, except some people look at it as an infringement upon individual freedom,” Grassley said. “But when it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then ought to lie the same way for health insurance, because everybody has some health insurance costs, and if you aren’t insured, there’s no free lunch. Somebody else is paying for it.”
In August, during the height of health care debate around the country, Grassley told Nightly Business Report that individual mandates would foster individual responsibility, “and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility.”
Grassley spokeswoman Beth Pellett Levine said the senator has raised concerns about the individual mandate all summer in “senior-level, principal discussions” between the so-called “group of six.” She pointed an amendment offered by Grassley during the Finance Committee mark-up of health care legislation last month that would have let states opt out of the individual mandate, an amendment that was defeated on a party-line vote.
“The bottom line is that we should return to first principles when it comes to the freedoms that we enjoy in America,” Grassley said in a statement on Sept. 22. “And consistent with that, certainly individuals should maintain their freedom to choose to whether to purchase health insurance coverage. And the individual mandate is not necessary. We can make this work without it. It may be what the powerful insurance companies demanded for obvious reasons but we don’t have to do it the way insurers want it done. All the reforms of insurance can be done with a reinsurance system instead of the individual mandate.”
Pellett Levin was also quick to point out that President Barack Obama campaigned as an opponent of the individual mandate. Last year, Obama said “if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.”
Pellett Levin said Grassley’s summer interviews where he appears to support an individual mandate were simply the senator describing it, “as it was part of discussions over a possible bipartisan bill which would have required compromises on both sides.”