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Huntsman Explains His Relationship With Health Care Reform's 'Individual Mandate'

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JON HUNTSMAN 2012

EXETER, N.H. -- There has been much reporting of the fact that as Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman held a favorable view of the individual mandate, the health insurance coverage requirement that has compelled conservatives to call the president's effort unconstitutional.

The bill ultimately passed in Utah did not include the provision. But it was, as The Huffington Post's Jason Cherkis reported, dropped not because Huntsman personally opposed the idea but because political realities in Utah compelled him to do so.

Huntsman, as a 2007 interview shows, more than just considered a mandate. He supported one publicly. According to a transcript, the then-governor said, " 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."

The former governor, who on Tuesday announced he was running for president, has since sought to sweep that moment under the rug. In a video accompanying his formal announcement, the narrator pointedly criticized the idea that individuals should be mandated to purchase health care coverage.

After speaking to a group of voters in Exeter, N. H., the Huffington Post asked Huntsman whether it was fair to make the mandate a campaign issue when he once sympathized with the idea. He acknowledged that he had, indeed, considered a mandate. "It would be a dereliction of duty not to," he said.

But he insisted, as he had before, that he never explicitly pushed the provision.

"When you are deliberating something as important as health care reform you look and analyze every conceivable option," he said. "[Y]ou look at everything, you analyze every possible approach, you bring in the experts and then you make a decision. And our decision was to move forward with a market-based model. And I do believe that that's likely where this country is going longer term. Other states are going to look at what we've done and take a chapter or two."

Huntsman went on to predict that the mandate would be repealed from the president's health care law and that individual states would exercise the option to opt out of the law's provisions, as they are allowed to do in 2017.

"Every state should have an opportunity to do what they feel is best," he said. "These are sovereign entities and they ought to look at health care reform. The biggest problem is going to be how you reconcile national health care reform with a lot of the work that is going on in the individual states. People will get exemptions after exemptions and I'm not sure longer term that is workable."

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