The Supreme Court and the GOP's Healthcare Hypocrisy

Current and former Republican candidates for president criticize a healthcare mandate despite its conservative roots.

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There’s always hypocrisy in Washington but past and present Republican presidential candidates have used the debate on healthcare to take it to heights unimaginable even in the nation’s capital. This week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tried again to cripple Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors.

What do Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul have in common? They were or are candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. They all oppose the Affordable Care Act, and they’re all hypocrites. Michele Bachmann feels so strongly about the law that she has been present in the Supreme Court during the oral arguments this week. Rick Santorum is so hostile to the Affordable Care Act that he took time away from the campaign trail to appear on the steps of the Supreme Court building on the first day of arguments. But Bachmann still enjoys the benefits of the gold plated federal healthcare insurance for members of Congress. Rick Santorum enjoyed the same government health benefits when he was a senator.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

All of them say they oppose the Affordable Care Act because they claim it is “government run healthcare.” But don’t panic, because they’re wrong. Since President Obama decided not to fight for a single payer plan or even for the public option, healthcare is still in the deadly clutches of the insurance companies.

Even if the Republicans candidates were right, they have some nerve even making the argument. While they all criticize government run healthcare and Medicare, as members of Congress they took full advantage of the gold plated healthcare insurance provided by the United States government. What the Republicans are really saying is that government run healthcare is fine for them but too good for working families. Since Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are still members of Congress, they could easily refuse their government run healthcare insurance and go into the private market like everybody else. But don’t hold your breath waiting for them to opt out. Bachmann and Paul are still on the government dole, and so are all the others members of Congress who opposed the Affordable Care Act. Hypocrites all.

[See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

Then there’s former governor and former liberal Mitt Romney who also has been very critical of the mandate in the new federal health insurance law. But the healthcare reform bill that he signed into law in Massachusetts has the same government mandate for everyone to have health insurance that is in the Affordable Care Act. After the reform bill became law in the Bay State, Romney said it was a model for the rest of the nation. Well he was right. Romneycare became Obamacare.

It’s not really surprising that Romney supported the insurance mandate in Massachusetts. The mandate was originally a Republican idea. Even Newt Gingrich supported the mandate in the 1990s. Republicans felt that people who didn’t buy health insurance were freeloaders. When people who don’t have health insurance are hurt or get sick, they go to emergency rooms and hospitals bill the taxpayers for the cost of treatment. The idea is that uninsured people should take financial responsibility for their own actions. That sounds pretty conservative to me, but it’s still a good idea.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the Supreme Court Overturn Obama's Healthcare Law?]

So why do politicians like Romney and Gingrich oppose the mandate after they supported it. They thought it was a great idea when conservative think tanks developed it, but once a Democratic president used their idea in his bill, it became radioactive.

Rick Santorum is right about one thing. Mitt Romney will have a lot of trouble trying to explain why his mandate was such a good idea and why the president’s mandate is such a bad idea.

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