On Alexander’s past support and vague future plans for health insurance mandates

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has repeatedly declared his desire to repeal ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act, and recently penned an article giving a broad outline of replacement legislation. But TNReport reports that his campaign is vague on the central notion of whether Alexander would continue ObamaCare’s mandate that individuals buy health insurance – an idea the senator has embraced in the past.

Alexander, currently the ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, was among 15 national “health care thinkers” that Politico asked last month to contribute views on what to do about the ACA “for the long haul.” His prescription, which appeared under the heading, “A conservative alternative,” included a declaration that “Obamacare is so flawed that it cannot be fixed.”

“Instead of tinkering at the edges of this historic mistake, we need to move as rapidly and responsibly as we can in an entirely different direction,” wrote the former Tennessee governor. “We need to transform our health-care delivery system into one that emphasizes freedom and choice and lower costs.” (Note: The Alexander article is HERE – it’s No. 6 of the 15.)

Alexander’s piece did not mention, however, any plan for the so-called individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act, a provision of the current law that requires all Americans to prove they’ve purchased government-approved health insurance, or face tax penalties that the Internal Revenue Service will enforce.

In multiple email correspondences and phone conversations with Alexander’s campaign over the past week, TNReport asked for clarification from the two-term incumbent as to whether he’s committed to eliminating any federal requirement that people carry medical coverage. A spokesman for Alexander did not directly answer the question, but instead pointed to the Tennessee senator’s numerous votes to repeal the ACA since it was enacted, although no attempt to repeal the law has ever passed the Senate.

Also unaddressed in TNReport’s communications with the campaign were requests for Alexander to explain what led to his apparent change of heart on the issue.
Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, Alexander supported legislation that included a federal mandate that people buy health insurance.

In 2007, when George W. Bush was president, Alexander co-sponsored a bipartisan health care reform bill, the Healthy Americans Act. The proposal required citizens to carry a minimum level of health insurance. It also established subsidies for buying insurance, and ended tax-free employer-provided coverage.