Newt Gingrich Supported an Individual Mandate as Recently as May 2009

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Among other mandates, he also suggested that kids who live within a mile of school should be forced to walk there, even in rain and snow.



In a conference call hosted by Siemens Healthcare months after President Obama's inauguration, Newt Gingrich praised the openness of the process by which Obama was pushing health-care reform, comparing it favorably to similar efforts during Bill Clinton's tenure. He also spoke out in favor of a federal requirement for every American to buy health insurance or to set aside a significant sum for the purpose of future health care spending, as you can hear in the excerpts of the conference call excerpted in the video above.

Says Morgen Richmond, who found audio:

This clip really should dispel once and for all any questions over Gingrich's support for a national health-insurance mandate. Somewhat strangely he's never really denied supporting the mandate, and in fact as late as May of last year reiterated essentially the same position on Meet the Press. Yet throughout the campaign he has said repeatedly that it is "clearly unconstitutional", and more recently claimed absurdly that he has only ever supported state level mandates. Well, here you have it: not only has Gingrich been a long-standing proponent of a federal health insurance mandate, he clearly and unequivocally called for it as part of the White House health reform initiative in May 2009. Mission accomplished then.

Morgen makes another astute point too:


Not only did Gingrich make the "conservative" argument for the mandate in dealing with the free rider problem, he also advanced a favorite argument of the left. Which is that the only way insurers could be required to offer coverage to everyone regardless of their health status ("must issue"), was to require everyone to carry insurance. This was ultimately the argument which convinced none other than Barack Obama, who remember, opposed an individual mandate during the Democrat primary campaign in 2008.
You can listen to the whole conference call here. And if you do, you'll hear Gingrich say something else that will make Tea Partiers uneasy. In his view, the government should improve the health care of Americans by changing the "cultural-and-society pattern" that helps communities to be healthier. He offers a few examples. Individual schools should be required to have physical education five days per week, he says. School cafeterias should have to make all means appropriate for a student with diabetes. And then there's the last mandate he'd impose:  

I am actually pretty radical about all this.

I advocate that if you like within a mile of school, you ought to actually walk to school. I'm prepared to go back and reinvent raincoats and boots if that will help get people in the habit of exercise. And I would argue, statistically, that a child who routinely walked to school, even if they were occasionally in the rain or the snow, would be healthier than if they were chauffeured to school.
A prohibition against driving kids to school could be even less popular among soccer moms than Gingrich's record on marriage.
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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