Romney doubles down on argument that state health mandate is 'conservative'

Requiring people to have health insurance is "conservative," GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told MSNBC on Wednesday, but only if states do it.

The argument aims to improve Romney's appeal to Republican voters concerned about the healthcare reform plan he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts in 2006. The Massachusetts law contains an individual mandate similar to the one in President Obama's healthcare law, which conservatives despise.

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"Personal responsibility," Romney said, "is more conservative in my view than something being given out for free by government."

"There were two options in my state," he said. "One was to continue to allow people without insurance to go to the hospital and get free care, paid for by the government, paid for by taxpayers."

"The best idea is to let each state craft their own solution because that's, after all, the heart of conservatism: to follow the Constitution," he said.

The Supreme Court is set to rule next year on whether a federal mandate is constitutional. 

States' right to require their citizens to have health insurance isn't in question, but state mandates are equally unpopular. Fourteen states have already passed laws or constitutional amendments banning individual mandates, and another four — Florida, Wyoming, Alabama and Montana — have similar measures on their ballot next year.