Jon Huntsman Expressed Support For Individual Mandate In 2007 Interview

WASHINGTON--For weeks, The Huffington Post has chronicled the various ways in which GOP presidential contender Jon Huntsman once supported an individual mandate as part of Utah's health-care reform.

In 2004, during his successful campaign for governor, Huntsman promised to reform Utah's health care system. He vowed to fix a system that had left hundreds of thousands of Utah residents without health insurance, even telling the incoming executive director of Utah's Department of Health that his goal was to insure everyone. During his first term, Huntsman became smitten with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Health Connector plan, which included a mandate.

Huntsman and his administration went on to support a 2007 United Way of Salt Lake City plan which called for a mandate. That same year, his cabinet and others pushed draft legislation that mirrored the Massachusetts model and the United Way plan and included a mandate. When the Utah legislature balked at such a mandate, it was taken off the table. Instead, in 2008, Huntsman passed a reform bill that established a health care exchange for small businesses known as the Utah Health Exchange that left uninsured individuals unaddressed.

Throughout our reporting, Huntsman and his campaign have denied that the then-Governor ever supported a mandate.

Now comes blogger Morgen Richmond, who has unearthed a 2007 documentary project on health care reform in Utah. Huntsman is interviewed for the project; in it, he is perfectly clear about where he comes down on the mandate issue:

I mentioned yesterday to somebody asking a question that I wouldn’t shy away from mandates. I think if you’re going to get it done and get it done right, [a] mandate has to be part of it in some way, shape, or form whether it’s the college age population or whether it’s something beyond, it’s got to be a serious attempt, and I’m not sure you get to the point of serious attempt without some sort of mandate associated with what you’re trying to do. Certainly a market-based approach is part of the solution as well. We forget that. If a tax credit is something that the federal government ultimately works out, then you’ve got some market solutions tossed in and nobody likes the word mandate, but without that kind of insistence -- that directness, I don’t know that you can achieve something this challenging in a short period of time, which is what I think we need to do as a nation.

Huntsman spokesperson Tim Miller said that the quote didn’t change the campaign's earlier statements.

"My comment is the same as its always been,” he wrote via email. “Governor Huntsman studied and considered all the options for health care reform in Utah. In the end he fought for and signed market-based, consumer empowering legislation - without a mandate - that is the model for conservative health care reform. That is his record."

Indeed, there appears to be a point in time when Huntsman realized that the mandate wouldn’t work in Utah. Increasingly, however, it seems like he abandoned his support for the mechanism because of political pressures -- not because he, himself, thought the idea was insufficiently conservative or effective.