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MEMO: The Individual Mandate Record Tommy Thompson Hopes You Forget

Today, the Supreme Court chose to uphold the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  But when Tea Party-pandering GOP Senate candidate Tommy Thompson releases his statement expressing his profound disappointment with the Court’s decision, Wisconsin voters should remember that just a few short years ago it was Thompson, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, who was touting the necessity of an individual mandate in health care reform.

Background:

Thompson’s Former State Health Secretary Said Thompson “Recognized That Government Worked” For Health Programs. “Tommy Thompson is the state’s most famous example of this tough love approach, once hailed as ‘compassionate conservatism,’ and up for discussion today is one of Thompson’s proudest achievements, greatly expanded under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle: Wisconsin’s BadgerCare, Family Care and SeniorCare insurance plans… It is also a shift from Thompson’s approach only a decade ago. The guy who trumpeted, ‘It’s good to be a Republican!’ was proud of his Medicaid programs, too. He started BadgerCare with just a few thousand teenagers in 1999 as a way to support families kicked off welfare due to his controversial ‘workfare’ reforms. Another motivation, according to his former health secretary, Joe Leean, was to one-up Hillary Clinton, whose efforts at health reform while her husband was president were a humiliating disaster. Leean, now retired in Waupaca, recalls those days fondly and calls the BadgerCare program ‘the highlight’ of his public service career. Thompson was a governor with more heart than people gave him credit for, Leean says. (Several Democrats confided that things are so bad under Walker that they find themselves praising Thompson and wishing he were still around.) ‘When he was first elected, he was proclaimed as this awful conservative, a Dr. No kind of guy,’ Leean recalls. ‘But when I went in there and said we needed to do this health program, he needed no prodding at all. He became a compassionate conservative right from the start. He recognized that government worked.’” [Capital Times, 4/20/11]

Video: Thompson Supported “What Massachusetts Did, And That Is Requiring Health Insurance…You’re Going To Have To Have Some Degree Of A Mandate To Cover The Uninsured.” On a panel sponsored by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, Thompson said: “The same thing can happen with the uninsured. You’re going to have to really allow for the private sector to develop the insurance policies that are very centrally attuned to what the group needs to be covered. You don’t, you cannot allow for the legislature or the Congress to add a lot of mandates on. It’s got to be one that is really necessary. You have also got to consider strongly, and I happen to support that, what Massachusetts did, and that is requiring health insurance, the coverage of health insurance. This is a little bit opposed to what Republicans really think, or propose, but the truth of the matter is, is just like automobile insurance, you’ve got to have coverage. And if you’re going to be able to cover the uninsured, you’re going to have to have some degree of a mandate to cover the uninsured. Go beyond that, that’s the government portion, and then allow the private sector to come in with proposals that are going to be able to be conducive to the uninsured, you’re gonna be able to cover them. You’re also then going to need the government to come in with a tax credit in order to subsidize [crosstalk, inaudible], and then on top of that you’re gonna have to have a cap. The reason the cap is because we’re seeing a tremendous decline of employer-covered insurance in this country. We’ve gone from about 75, we’ll probably go below 60%, and especially those companies with 25 or fewer employees are getting out of the market. And in order to get them back in, you’ve got to be able to allow for some degree of insurability, some degree of certainty.” [C-Span, 4/17/06, emphasis added]

VIDEO: Thompson: “I For One Believe The Mandates For Health Insurance Is Alright.” During a speech about changes to Medicaid at the University of Texas, Tommy Thompson said, “I for one believe the mandates for health insurance is alright. We mandate insurance for automobiles. You know you can’t drive in Texas without automobile insurance. You can’t drive in any state you know without automobile insurance. It’s a mandate, but it’s certainly something that we should discuss in this country, and I think that’s positive.” [“Medicaid Makeover” Speech at the University of Texas, 2/8/2007 via YouTube]

Thompson Endorsed Federal Individual Mandate For Uninsured. “If former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is right, Americans have just begun to hear about the nation’s health care crisis and what should be done to solve it. ‘I think the presidential election of 2008 is going to be fought over health care and energy,’ Thompson on Monday told two dozen executives from some of the Omaha area’s largest employers. Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and President Bush’s first HHS secretary, spoke at a roundtable discussion on corporate strategies to reduce health costs. Thompson now is independent chairman of Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions, a Washington-based arm of Deloitte & Touche USA, which sponsored the discussion. Among other ways to tackle health costs, Thompson recommended, is to create an insurance pool for the nation’s 45 million uninsured citizens and mandating that people have coverage, just as with automobile insurance. ‘This is controversial,’ he said. The insurance pool would be put out to bid, just as the federal government sought bids to secure providers of the new Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, a benefit Thompson helped create. The coverage would be capped. Coverage beyond that would be bid out to a separate pool of insurers. Not only would people then be more likely to get care before they get sick, he said, they also would seek out more routine health care at area clinics, thereby stimulating the local economy.” [Omaha World-Herald, 6/6/06]

Video: Thompson Agreed That Individual Mandate Would Be More Effective On “Nationwide Basis,” Called For Federal Government To Follow “Tipping Point” Of Massachusetts Reform. On a panel sponsored by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University:

BREAUX: Wouldn’t it be better than, if you have, say, an individual mandate, wouldn’t it be better to have it on a nationwide basis so that you could form the pools of various states coming together, than each state doing it separately by themselves.

THOMPSON: Well, I think that would be better, but the truth of the matter is, I don’t think that’s going to happen, John. The practicality of politics in Washington right now is that nothing like that is gonna pass. That’s why the state of Massachusetts, and I’m very happy when Donna gave me the waiver to try something with S-CHIP, I was…

SHALALA: I gave him whatever he asked for. [Laughter]

THOMPSON: I was able to give Governor Romney the waiver this year to allow for the plan that is in Massachusetts. But I think Massachusetts is sort of the tipping point, I think other states are going to follow through, but I think unless the federal government is going to be able to come together, which I don’t think they are, states are gonna do this.” [C-Span, 4/17/06]