Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean has never been a fan of the individual mandate for insurance coverage, both on policy and political grounds. And once Senate negotiators removed any hope of a public option for insurance coverage from the final health care reform package, he became much more outspoken in his criticism.
The logic, simply put, was that there were other avenues for providing health care coverage to large swaths of the population without forcing them to sign up with private insurers. Dean would know -- he expanded health care coverage for kids without an individual mandate while serving as governor of Vermont.
On Friday, the former DNC chair took his skepticism with the individual mandate to a different, more provocative level. Appearing on MSNBC, Dean predicted that the policy will be removed from the legislation by the time much of the reform is implemented in 2014.
His comments come just days after a Virginia judge ruled that a constitutional challenge to the provision can go forward -- something that Dean took into his calculations. But the case he made was also based on the belief that a mandate will never achieve broad popular support, something that appears relatively true at this early juncture.
Dean: [T]he truth is the mandate's not essential to the plan anyway. It never was esential to the plan. They did it in massachusetts and had a mandate, but we have universal health care for kids in my state without a mandate.
Savanah Guthrie: How can you say that? the way it's explained to us by the White House if you do anything about preexisting conditions, you got to get everybody into the game. Without the mandate, you can't require insurance companies to stop prohibiting --
Dean: We did in my state. We did it 20 years ago in my state.
Chuck Todd: How did you do it?
Dean: We just said all comers will have to get insurance and you can't charge -- this is why our bill is so much better than what they passed -- you can't charge more than 20 percent above the basic rate; in the Senate it's 300 percent, based on age. The fact of the matter is that I thought the president was right in the campaign. Academically you want a mandate. The American people aren't going to put up with a mandate. I made this prediction before and I'm going to make it again: by the time this thing goes into effect in 2014, I think the mandate will be gone either through the courts or because it's unpopular. You don't need it. There will be two or three percent of the people who cheat. That is not enough to bring the system to a halt and people don't like to be told what to do.
Todd: You expect them to drop the mandate?
Dean: Well, the courts may rule it unconstitutional. It has no effect on the bill.
Guthrie: You don't think that unravels the whole bill?
Dean: Absolutely not. You do not -- the only people that really benefit from the mandate are the insurance companies. I know from personal experience, 18 years ago we did this in my state and it still works just fine. We didn't have big rate increases. We had a few fly by night insurance companies leave because we were so tough on them, but our insurance market works as well as anybody else's