Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“We should tie it to the fact that we need to create jobs and expand opportunity,” O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”during an appearance where he squared off against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

OMalley was asked by guest host Norah O’Donnell whether Democrats should be wary of the issue, given the losses they suffered in Congress and governorships in 2010 following the law’s passage.

O’Malley said Democrats need to do a “better job as a party” of explaining the benefits of the law, noting that Maryland has become “an early implementer” of some of its provisions.

During the segment, O’Malley also bristled at Walker’s characterization of the law’s inclusion of “a massive tax increase.”

“That’s the biggest falsehood being perpetuated by these unflinching ideologues,” O’Malley replied.

He defended the individual mandate — which the Supreme Court ruled is a tax — as a “freeloaders penalty.”

O’Malley and Walker also offered diverging views on the lessons to draw from Mitt Romney’s support of an individual mandate in his health plan while governor of Massachusetts.

Walker, who recently survived a recall election in Wisconsin, said states should take the lead in deciding what works for their residents.

O’Malley said that Romney’s past embrace of an individual mandate showed that “he saw that the free-market solution wasn’t working ... before he had to twist himself into an ideological pretzel to satisfy the tea-party wing that’s running their party.”