In 2007, Ben Carson suggested he wasn't opposed to hypothetically requiring people to buy health insurance like in the Scandinavian health care system — though he argued it would be "unreasonable" to do so then.
Carson was speaking during a 2007 meeting of the President's Council on Bioethics convened by George W. Bush:
The individual mandate concept — the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance — gained traction first in the 1990s when the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, advocated for it. As governor of Massachusetts in 2006 — the year before Carson's remark — Mitt Romney later signed into law a health care law that included a mandate.
In recent years, Republicans have widely criticized the individual mandate, which in the case of Obamacare, requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. Carson once infamously called Obamacare "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
In another Council meeting earlier that year, Carson suggested that "if everybody owned their own health insurance, there are some real possibilities here" for using premium prices to incentivize healthy behavior.
"For instance, if they become a lion tamer, their rate goes up. You know, if they're going to climb mountains, Mount Everest, on a regular basis, their rate goes up," Carson said. "Why should everybody else have to be responsible for somebody who clearly is going to be pushing the button? If they're going to be riding a motorcycle without a helmet, their rates go up."
Carson also suggested that the mechanism could be used to disincentivize obesity.
"We don't necessarily have to hold that person responsible for being fat," Carson suggested. "But if we say, 'Your premium goes up because you weigh 400 pounds, sorry,' they're going to start thinking about it."
A Carson spokesman said he would not respond to specific quotes, saying Carson was used talking about ways to make health care more affordable.
"I'm not going to respond to any of these specific quotes as, in general, it is clear he was not speaking of a specific health care policy but musing about tactics and solutions to make health care more affordable and accessible," the spokesperson said.
"Today, Dr. Carson advocates a health care system based on cradle to grave health savings accounts, an affordable high quality approach to health care that minimizes government and insurance company interference between the patient and their health care provider."
Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at email@example.com.
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