Romney: Government-Mandated Health Insurance Good for Massachusetts

By Susan Jones and Eric Scheiner | August 12, 2011 | 10:54 AM EDT

Republican presidential candidates pose for a photo before the start of the Iowa GOP/Fox News debate in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. From left to right are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; businessman Herman Cain; Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.); former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

( - A question about the constitutionality of the government requiring individuals to purchase health insurance put Mitt Romney on the defensive at the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, Thursday night.

The individual mandate is the cornerstone of President Obama’s health care program as well as that imposed on Massachusetts under then-Gov. Mitt Romney.

Chris Wallace asked Romney, "Do you believe the government has any right -- has the right to make someone buy a good or service just because they are a U.S. resident? Where do you find that the Constitution?”

“Chris, you're asking me what do we think we should do about Obamacare," Romney dodged.

Wallace interrupted: “Sir, I’m asking you, where do you find that authority in the Constitution?”

“Where do I find it in the Constitution? Are you familiar with the Massachusetts Constitution? I am,” Romney said. “And the Massachusetts Constitution allows states, for instance, to say that our kids have to go to school. It has that power. The question is, is that a good idea or a bad idea? And I understand different people come to different conclusions.

“What we did in our state was this: We said, look we're finding people that can afford insurance, health insurance, that are going to the hospital and getting the state to pay for it. Taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars of costs from people who are free riders. We said, you know what, we're going to insist that those people who can afford to pay for themselves do so. We believe in personal responsibility. And if the people aren't willing to do that, then they're going to help the government pay for them. That was our conclusion.

“The right answer for every state is to determine what's right for those states, and not to impose Obamacare on the people. That's why I'll repeal it."

Earlier, Romney said that on his first day as president, he would direct his Health and Human Services Secretary to grant Obamacare waivers to all 50 states.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), asked by Wallace if it makes any difference whether mandatory health insurance is imposed by a state or the federal government, responded “No,” it makes no difference.

“I believe the government is without authority to compel a citizen to purchase a product or service against their will -- because effectively, when the federal government does that, what they're doing is they're saying to the individual, they are going to set the price of what that product is. If the federal government can force American citizens -- or if the states can force their citizens to purchase health insurance, there is nothing that the state cannot do. This is clearly an unconstitutional action, whether it’s done at the federal level or whether it’s at the state level,” Bachmann said.

Bachmann said as president, she "will not rest" until Obamacare is repealed.

Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), an advocate of medical savings accounts, said he way he understands the Constitution, “the federal government can't go in and prohibit the states from doing bad things.”

He also noted that a big problem with health care is that “we have drifted so far from any of our care being delivered by the marketplace. And once you get the government involved -- and both parties have done it. They've developed a bit of a medical care delivery system based on corporatism. The corporations are doing quite well, whether it's Obama or under the Republicans.

“The drug companies do well. The insurance companies do well. The organized medicine do well. The management companies do well. The patient and the doctors suffer. There's a wedge. Every time you have the government get in here with these regulations, and have these mandates, there's a wedge driven in between the doctor and the patient. We have to get the people more control of their care, and that's why these medical savings accounts could at least introduce the notion of market delivery of medical care.”

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) said he was the first author of medical savings accounts in 1992, when he served in the House of Representatives.

He called Michele Bachmann’s argument “the 10th Amendment run amok.” (The amendment says powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people.)

“Michele Bachmann says that she would go in and fight health care being imposed by states, mandatory health, but she wouldn't fight go in and fight marriage being imposed by the states, that would be OK.

“We have Ron Paul saying, oh, what the states want to do -- whatever the states want to do under the 10th Amendment's fine. So if the states want to pass polygamy, that's fine. If the states want to impose sterilization, that's fine.

“No, our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen. There are things the states can't do. Abraham Lincoln said the states do not have the right to do wrong.

“I respect the 10th Amendment, but we are a nation that has values. We are a nation that was built on a moral enterprise, and states don't have the right to tramp over those because of the 10th Amendment.”

Eric Scheiner
Eric Scheiner
Eric is the Senior Video Producer for