From the debate last night:
ROMNEY: Rick, I make enough mistakes in what I say, not for you to add more mistakes to what I say. I didn’t say I’m in favor of top- down government-run health care, 92 percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place. And nothing changes for them. They own the same private insurance they had before.
And for the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan.
And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.
Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.
SANTORUM: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?
ROMNEY: Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.
SANTORUM: So, in Massachusetts…
That last line there was the audience, made up of Republican primary voters, applauding a full-throated defense of the individual mandate. I’m somewhat amazed at how well Governor Romney can defend the inherent structure of health care reform.
This should be an interesting election year.
[Cross-posted at The Incidental Economist]