During the Democratic primary race, it was Hillary Clinton whose health-care plan used an individual mandate to increase health-care coverage.
Back then, it was Barack Obama who argued against a mandate because it put onerous penalties on those who already could not afford health insurance. His argument was that the impediment to access is "affordability," and lowering costs would necessarily lower that impediment.
He has since changed his mind, and backs an individual mandate.
Obama's reversal put him in the interesting position of rebutting his very own former position, as voiced by Sen. Tom Coburn today, who put an emphasis on fraud elimination and cost control first, as a way to expand access.
Here is Obama in 2008, arguing Coburn's point:
Every expert has said that anybody who wants health care under my plan will be able to obtain it. President Clinton's own secretary of labor has said that my plan does more to reduce costs and, as a consequence, makes sure that the people who need health care right now all across Ohio, all across Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont, all across America, will be able to obtain it. And we do more to reduce costs than any other plan that's been out there.
Now, I have no objection to Senator Clinton thinking that her approach is superior. But the fact of the matter is, is that if, as we've heard tonight, we still don't know how Senator Clinton intends to enforce a mandate, and if we don't know the level of subsidies that she's going to provide, then you can have a situation which we're seeing right now in the state of Massachusetts, where people are being fined for not having purchased health care but choose to accept the fine because they still can't afford it even with the subsidies.
And they are then worse off. They then have no health care and are paying a fine above and beyond that.