President Obama described the health care mandate as "less a tax or a penalty than it is a principle," in an interview released Tuesday with CBS Toledo:
ROB WIERCINSKI: The final question comes from one of our viewers; we're sticking on health care. Mike Baas from Perrysburg wants to know: "Is the mandate to buy health insurance in the new law a tax or a penalty?"
BARACK OBAMA: As I've said, it's less a tax or a penalty than it is a principle, which is you can't be a freeloader on other folks when it comes to your healthcare, if you can afford it. Now if you can't afford it, you're out of a job, you're broke, you're trying to make your payments, what we're going to do is to actually help you have some security in health insurance so that you don't lose everything in case you get sick. But if you can afford it, and this applies typically to less than one percent of the population, if you can afford it, then go ahead and get it, and if you don't, we're going to penalize you so that you're not dumping those costs onto somebody else.