Via Karen Tumulty, I see this letter that President Obama has sent Sens. Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus, following their meeting yesterday, in which he lays out his thinking on health care reform.
In the letter, Obama writes:
But I believe if we are going to make people responsible for owning health insurance, we must make health care affordable. If we do end up with a system where people are responsible for their own insurance, we need to provide a hardship waiver to exempt Americans who cannot afford it.
While over the past few months the White House has said Obama would be open to the idea of an individual mandate, this language suggests that he’s more or less accepted the idea, and that he’ll use this “hardship waiver” concept to provide wiggle room to explain his tremendous flip flop.
Remember, this was one of the few significant domestic policy differences Obama had with Hillary Clinton during last year’s Democratic primaries, and he was quite vocally opposed to having the government require people to purchase health insurance:
SEN. OBAMA: Number one, understand that when Senator Clinton says a mandate, it’s not a mandate on government to provide health insurance; it’s a mandate on individuals to purchase it. And Senator Clinton is right; we have to find out what works.
Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they’ve concluded that that 20 percent can’t afford it. In some cases, 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. (Applause.) And in order for you to force people to get health insurance, you’ve got to have a very harsh, stiff penalty. And Senator Clinton has said that we will go after their wages.