From the moment the Affordable Care Act was wheeled out the mandate part of it was apologized for even by it’s creators and then kind of ignored by its administrators as if it was a nasty mole on the legislation.
The mandate was essential and fair and if it had been enforced would have lowered premiums for everybody and helped the entire system work better. The heart of any insurance system is getting as many people into the pool as possible, for health insurance it’s getting as many healthy people as possible to pay into the system.
You couldn’t have an auto insurance system without making it mandatory to have insurance, and likewise the best way to create universal health insurance is to enforce a similar uniformity.
Every time Democrats apologized for it gave oxygen to the Republicans who denounced it. It was always stupid to keep pushing it away and delaying its implementation rather than educating people as to what insurance is about and getting buy in.
As much as the GOP disingenuously and cynically attacked the mandate (although at times it was unclear that they did understand how insurance works), they included a penalty in their horrific tax cut bill masquerading as a healthcare bill for those who let their coverage lapse. Even their ridiculous attempt had to include some inducement to get into and stay in the system. Everybody working on health insurance needs to understand that THIS IS HOW IT ALL WORKS.