President Obama has previously refused to endorse a mandate for individuals to purchase coverage. Obama flip-flopped on this issue in tonight's speech. Now, he says,
"individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance."
In a 2008 debate in Austen, Texas, Obama criticized Hillary Clinton's health care plan for requiring mandatory coverage. He said he doesn't believe everyone should be forced to purchase health care insurance.
Barack Obama: ... So we put in place a catastrophic reinsurance plan that would reduce costs by $2,500 per family per year. So we've got a lot of similarities in our plan. We've got a philosophical difference: Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it. My belief is that people don't have it is not because they don't want it but because they can't afford it. So I emphasize reducing costs. My plan does more than anybody to reduce costs, and there is nobody out there who wants health insurance who can't have it.
Barack Obama said that people forced to purchase insurance under Massachusetts mandate were worse off now than were before.
Barack Obama: When Clinton says a mandate, it's not a mandate on government to provide health insurance, it's a mandate on individuals to purchase it. Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20% of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20% can't afford it. There are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine. To force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh penalty, and Clinton has said that we won't go after their wages...
In the above excerpt, Obama said of mandatory coverage, "you've got to have a very harsh penalty." He must have meant harsh penalties like the $3800 fine on families that fail to get coverage proposed by Democratic Senator Max Baucus.
President Obama should try to remember this ugly mailer, criticizing Senator Clinton on the issue of mandates, he sent out in January of 2008. Screen shot below.
PDF of full "mailer" here.