Hillary Clinton in 1993: Individual Mandate Is a “Much Harder Sell”

Hillary Clinton speaking before a Senate panel in 1993.James Colburn/ZUMA


The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial aspects of Obamacare since Congress passed the law in 2009. Conservatives have railed against the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. And the 2012 Supreme Court case that decided the fate of Obamacare centered around Republicans’ objections to the mandate.

But the individual mandate originated as a conservative goal—first proposed by the Heritage Foundation, later adopted by Senate Republicans as an alternative approach to President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reform in the health care system during his first term.

New documents unsealed Friday by the Bill Clinton’s presidential library show that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton wasn’t a fan of the individual mandate back when it was a Republican idea. In September 1993, Hillary traveled to Capitol Hill and explained White House’s health care plan to a gathering of Democratic leaders from the House and Senate. During Clinton’s remarks, which spelled out the details of the proposal before they were released to the public, she dismissed the concept of the mandate with a prescient knowledge of how tricky it would be to sell to the public:

But if the Republican alternative, as it appears now to be shaping up, at least among the moderate Republicans in the Senate, is an individual mandate, we have looked at that in every way we know to to (inaudible). That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got—a much harder sell.

Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility.

Unfortunately for Clinton, if she runs for president in 2016 (as widely predicted) she’ll likely have to defend Obama’s implementation of that mandate.

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