NPR's Julie Rovner gives us the history of the individual mandate:
For Republicans, the idea of requiring every American to have health insurance is one of the most abhorrent provisions of the Democrats' health overhaul bills.
"Congress has never crossed the line between regulating what people choose to do and ordering them to do it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). "The difference between regulating and requiring is liberty."
But Hatch's opposition is ironic, or some would say, politically motivated. The last time Congress debated a health overhaul, when Bill Clinton was president, Hatch and several other senators who now oppose the so-called individual mandate actually supported a bill that would have required it.
In fact, says Len Nichols of the New America Foundation, the individual mandate was originally a Republican idea. "It was invented by Mark Pauly to give to George Bush Sr. back in the day, as a competition to the employer mandate
focus of the Democrats at the time."