In response to the blatantly socialistic approach to healthcare reform under Bill and Hillary, conservatives rallied around the notion of an individual mandate, which as Reason notes:
Since it's unlikely that Americans will allow their improvident neighbors to expire without medical care in the streets, is there a politically palatable alternative that can preserve and expand private medicine in the United States? Yes: mandatory private health insurance.
I know that much ink has been spilled complaining about President Obama's approach to health reform negotiations, but I have not seen* an argument that says Obama made a strategic mistake in adopting RomneyCare/ReasonCare from the outset because it deprived the Republicans of a legitimate (read: sane) position to hold during negotiations.
Would it have served the administration better to fully embrace single-payer or a robust public option from the outset, and then only slowly back down and adopt an individual mandate without the public option? Instantly emasculating the Republicans by adopting their only health care policy idea that includes universal coverage seems to have been a mistake--but I reserve judgement until the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the law.
*Such an argument may very well exist, but I have no desire to search for it.