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These days, the left is just about begging conservatives to surrender on repealing ObamaCare. Immediately after the Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 ruling upholding its constitutionality, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel insisted that, “…Republicans need to drop their partisan obstruction and move on.” President Obama agreed, stating firmly, “…the law I passed is here to stay. …We are moving forward.”
A couple of recent polls show that a sizable fraction of the electorate sympathizes with the idea, including some independents. This has been a long fight, so that’s understandable. Let’s retrace where we’ve been. The bitter public debate over the bill was ugly and confusing, as major proposals such as the “public option” were included and thrown out seemingly at random. Significant promises were made and broken, and President Obama ultimately flip-flopped on the individual mandate, lending it his support.
Throughout the fight, conservatives screamed that the individual mandate constituted a gigantic tax, one that would impact every American who didn’t want to be forced to purchase health insurance. Democrats laughed off this argument, claiming that nobody could reasonably refer to the mandate as a tax (the joke’s on all of us, huh?). Prominent politicians predicted the bill wouldn’t pass, others insisted that it must include certain provisions or else they wouldn’t vote for it, and still more promised behind the scenes to vote for it in exchange for big earmarks to pet projects in their state or district.
After fighting a lengthy war over health care reform, Democrats rammed ObamaCare through and the president hurriedly signed it into law. Even today, few Americans can follow the bizarre and often underhanded legislative process by which the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was ultimately passed. However, the fight wasn’t over. The health care debate energized the burgeoning Tea Party, and ObamaCare became the signature issue of the 2010 elections. As you may remember, those elections didn’t turn out very well for the law’s supporters. A wave of incoming Tea Party freshmen pledged to repeal ObamaCare in full, but a slim Democratic majority in the Senate has managed to delay the repeal coalition.
While the Tea Party fought for full repeal through the electoral process, twenty-six state governments brought a lawsuit to the Supreme Court arguing that the individual mandate at the heart of ObamaCare is unconstitutional. Many legal scholars scoffed at the idea, and insisted that the lawsuit didn’t have a chance. After the oral arguments didn’t go so well, the left became hysterical. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. was lambasted by the left for his weak performance in the oral arguments. Liberals argued that the Supreme Court had become hopelessly partisan, political, and conservative. Ezra Klein even started asking if Democrats would have to pack the court FDR-style in order to get favorable rulings going forward.
As we all know, the hysteria was for nothing. A majority of the Court ultimately decided to uphold the individual mandate’s constitutionality under Congress’s power to tax (an argument that the Obama administration repeatedly refuted and refused to make before the Court). Of course, now the left is singing a very different tune. You would be hard-pressed to find a prominent liberal bashing the Supreme Court these days. For them, the argument’s over. Done. Kaput. Move on. …Please?
Can you imagine the vitriol thrown at the Court if the conservative majority had struck down the law? It would be incredible. How many, do you think, would argue that the Court had set an unbreakable precedent? That the argument was now over, and that conservatives had won for good?
The Supreme Court doesn’t have the final word on the Constitution. The American people have the final word on the Constitution, because the people are sovereign. The left wants to use the dignity and respectability of the highest court in the land to end an acrimonious debate before November’s elections. Knowing how badly they were crushed in 2010, they can’t afford to make this election cycle about ObamaCare as well. After all, Democrats are already incredibly vulnerable on the other most important issue of the election: the economy. If this election ends up as a referendum on the economy and ObamaCare, it’s over. They lose. Hard.
Republicans are almost certain to retain control of the House, and they’re only a few seats away from a Senate majority. That, combined with taking the White House, would put conservatives in position to repeal most of ObamaCare using the budget reconciliation process, and then to repeal the rest using the normal legislative process. Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have all promised that full repeal is their top priority.
Why? Why won’t conservatives just give up already on repealing ObamaCare? There are many reasons, but here are ten of the highlights:
1.) It’s a significant invasion of our liberty. The individual mandate alone forces us into commerce, a dramatic expansion of the power of the federal government. I use the word “force,” because the threat of force is what backs up every tax. ObamaCare is also an invasion of our religious freedoms. Its contraceptive mandate violates the freedom of religious organizations by requiring them to provide birth control (alongside other contraceptives) in their employee health care plans, despite their religious objections.
2.) It’s, in effect, a government takeover of a sixth of the national economy. Government programs, particularly large ones, always expand in cost and control as the bureaucracy, with little oversight and broad discretionary authority, starts to take over and set the rules. Take a look at the one hundred and fifty nine new government boards, bureaucracies, and programs created under ObamaCare.
Is it true socialized medicine on the level of the British National Health Service? Not yet, but it’s a big step in that direction. Progressives are already demanding even more government expansion and control in health care, and they ultimately want a single-payer health care system. Even President Obama recently said that there’s “more work to do” on health care, referring to his law as merely “pushing us in the right direction.”
3.) It’s flat-out unaffordable. We’re already nearly $16 trillion in debt, and we’ve racked up another $900 billion deficit in barely nine months of fiscal year 2012. The most recent estimate of ObamaCare’s ten-year cost is $2.6 trillion. We just can’t afford that kind of spending.
Let’s not forget that the government is pretty awful at estimating the future costs of their health care programs. Medicare was originally estimated to cost about $12 billion by 1990 (it actually cost $98 billion that year, and it cost $500 billion last year). Massive cost overruns are a fact of life. Who knows what ObamaCare will eventually cost us?
4.) It remains unpopular with the American people. The majority of likely voters still want ObamaCare repealed. Leading up to the Court ruling, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that, “More than two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of the 2010 health care law,” and added, “Just 24 percent said they hoped the court ‘would keep the entire health care law in place.’”
5.) It’s a tax hike (there are at least twenty new taxes in ObamaCare) and a job killer in the middle of what’s still a recession for most Americans. Earlier this month, President Obama claimed that job creation and economic growth are the top priorities of his administration. This is a blatant lie. The fact that ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank are his top two domestic legislative “accomplishments” make that clear.
6.) It’s bad policy. ObamaCare pursues an expansion of coverage through government mandates at the expense of lowering costs and expanding freedom. As I’ve argued before, this is exactly the wrong approach to health care reform. It’ll only continue the skyrocketing cost growth of health care in America. Unsurprisingly, we can already see the effect of ObamaCare on insurance premiums, which have risen by about $2,100 for Americans buying their own insurance, on average.
Let’s not forget that ObamaCare also imposes de facto health care rationing via IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. As I’ve explained before, “…The mission of IPAB is to reduce Medicare costs by cutting reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals. Since Medicare already underpays the health care industry, another round of deep cuts to reimbursement payments will doubtlessly push even more physicians and hospitals to stop accepting Medicare recipients. For rural recipients of Medicare with limited access to health care providers as it is, these cuts could make it difficult if not impossible to get health care. This is rationing in its most basic form.”
7.) It’s an insertion of more government bureaucracy in the doctor-patient relationship. As Dr. Robert Moffitt of The Heritage Foundation writes, “Specifically, physicians will be subject to more government regulation and oversight, and will be increasingly dependent on unreliable government reimbursement for medical services. Doctors, already under tremendous pressure, will only see their jobs become more difficult.”
8.) It’s allowed powerful government officials to set onerous mandates on the vast majority of the American people, while they grant waivers to their friends. As Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) put it, “Many of those waivers went to the president’s union buddies.” FreedomWorks has even started a petition to poke fun at the disproportionate number of waivers given to those with money and influence.
9.) It’s (still) unconstitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion relied on a very generous reading of Congress’s power to tax. According to that opinion, Congress’s power to tax is realistically without limit. As Dr. Paul Moreno of Hillsdale College writes, “Some conservatives have cheered that part of Justice Roberts’s decision that limits Congress’s Commerce Clause power. But an unlimited taxing power is equally dangerous to constitutional government.”
Still, Court rulings aren’t the final word on the Constitution. If they were, then past rulings would form an unbreakable precedent for future rulings, instead of merely being a helpful guide. In that case, the Supreme Court would still be bound by 19th-century rulings on Congress’s power to tax, and the ObamaCare decision would’ve gone very differently, indeed.
10.) We have a better plan. Despite what the media likes to claim, conservatives have set out a comprehensive health care reform plan that will lower costs and expand freedom for Americans, thereby naturally expanding coverage as a result.
Some of the best bills already introduced include Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-GA) Patient OPTION Act, Rep. Todd Rokita’s (R-IN) State Health Flexibility Act, Rep. Bill Huizenga’s (R-MI) Health Freedom for Seniors Act, Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) Retirement Freedom Act, and Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act.
What are some of the conservative ideas in these bills to reform health care? Allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines, full tax deductibility for health care expenses, reforming the EMTALA hospital mandate, allowing people to opt-out of Medicare, price transparency, creating tax incentives for physicians who provide free care to patients in need, encouraging true insurance, state-based pre-existing condition pools, an expansion of consumer-driven health plans and Health Savings Accounts, converting Medicare into a modern and high-quality “premium support” system, and allowing small businesses to band together to obtain lower health insurance rates through Association Health Plans (AHPs).
And that’s just the start. As Dean Clancy writes, there’s a great deal of reason to believe that the conservative plan for consumer-driven, patient-centered health care will work, if given a chance.
Conservatives have fought a long, exhausting war to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The elections this November will be the largest and most important battle to date, and it’s one that we must win.