Saturday, November 1st, 2014
Mostly True
Santorum
"Speaker Gingrich for 20 years supported a federal individual mandate" for health insurance.

Rick Santorum on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 in a Republican presidential primary debate in Tampa, Fla.

Rick Santorum calls Newt Gingrich a longtime supporter of insurance mandate

In the ongoing contest to determine which Republican presidential candidate is "sufficiently conservative," former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum rattled off a list of issues where Newt Gingrich comes up short.

One of the marks against the former House speaker, Santorum said in a primary debate on Jan. 23, 2012: Gingrich "for 20 years supported a federal individual mandate."

The individual mandate is a requirement that people buy health insurance and is the centerpiece of the national health reform legislation signed by President Barack Obama. It is now almost universally maligned by Republicans.

But, as PolitiFact has found before, it wasn’t always the target of Gingrich’s scorn.

Going back to 1993

When we first looked into this, we were checking a statement made by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in a December 2011 debate. Bachmann, who later bowed out of the presidential race, said Gingrich backed the mandate at two different times -- in 1993 and in 2011.

Gingrich appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Oct. 3, 1993, at a time when the Clinton administration was trying to pass a health-care overhaul. On the May 15, 2011, edition of Meet the Press, host David Gregory replayed a clip from Gingrich’s 1993 appearance that addressed the individual mandate.

"I am for people, individuals -- exactly like automobile insurance -- individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance."

He went on to criticize Clinton’s plan as "destructively big-government." But he also said, "I would like to see every American have health insurance. I am willing to require that."

And since then

Gingrich has addressed the individual mandate numerous times since 1993.

In 2005, he took part in a health care discussion with none other than Hillary Clinton, saying people should have to buy insurance or post a bond to pay for future care. (Check out the video here.)

Quick comparison: an individual mandate requires people to buy insurance or pay a fine in the form of tax penalties. The bond idea also requires people to buy insurance, and if they don’t, to put up money to be set aside to pay for their future medical care.

Gingrich repeated his support for a bond in a 2007 column for his think tank Health Transformation, writing, "in order to make coverage more accessible, Congress must do more, including passing legislation to … require anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year to purchase health insurance or post a bond."

And again in his 2009 book "Real Change: the Fight for America’s Future": "Those who oppose the concept of insurance should be forced to post a bond to cover costs. Allowing individuals to pass their health costs on to others reinforces the attitude that their health is not their problem and adds to the irresponsible, unhealthy behaviors that bankrupt the current system."  

By the time he appeared on Meet the Press in May 2011, he was calling this concept "a variation" on the individual mandate.

"Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay -- help pay for health care . And, and I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond … or in some way you indicate you’ll be held accountable," he said.

(That remark stirred up so much controversy in Republican circles that Gingrich was compelled to issue a video statement the next day clarifying that he is "completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals. ... I'm against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone, because it is fundamentally wrong and, I believe, unconstitutional.")
   
Working out the details of a bond system to pay for future health care -- such as how much would need to be set aside and how -- poses challenges.

"A bond alternative was part of the Heritage Foundation's plan and was actually originally in (Mitt) Romney's proposal in Massachusetts but was taken out by legislature late in game," said Michael Tanner, a health policy specialist with the libertarian Cato Institute. "It is a modest improvement over a straight mandate since it doesn't require you to buy a specific product, but libertarians like me still found it objectionable."

Our ruling

Santorum said Gingrich "for 20 years supported a federal individual mandate." We found no references earlier than 1993, when Gingrich said "I am for people, individuals -- exactly like automobile insurance -- individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance."

In the years since, he made repeated statements asserting that people who don’t purchase insurance should have to do so or to post a bond, a concept he calls "a variation" on the mandate.

While the specifics of Gingrich’s viewpoint on the individual mandate have shifted -- ending with his opposition to it now -- it’s clear that for most of two decades he planted himself comfortably on the spectrum of compelling people to have health insurance. That’s enough to rate Santorum’s statement Mostly True.