July 6, 2012
Health Care – Now a Major
Conservatives were disappointed and even angry that the Supreme
Court decided last week that the Affordable Care Act (ACA),
which they dubbed Obamacare, was held constitutional by a 5-4
Surprisingly, Chief Justice John Roberts voted not with his
fellow conservatives, but with four liberals appointed by
He explained that he voted with the liberals not because he
thought the health care law was “good policy,” but “because
there was not a constitutional reason to invalidate the
individual mandate at the core of the law. We possess neither
the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments.
“Those decisions are entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders,
who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with
them. It is not our job to protect people from the consequences
of their political choices.”
ACA requires that everyone have health insurance, or be forced
to pay a “penalty” that rises to 2.5% of income. Roberts agreed
with the conservatives that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause
prohibited Congress from creating such a penalty:
“The Framers gave Congress the power to (ital) regulate
(close ital) commerce, not to (ital) compel (cl ital)
it,” he said.
How, then, did Roberts uphold the law? He simply called the
penalty “a tax” which Congress does have the authority to
The four conservatives filed a bitter dissent, noting that a
penalty and a tax “are mutually exclusive.” The law called it a
penalty 18 times. They argued that a tax has to originate in the
House of Representatives, the legislative body, most accountable
to the people, who face an election every two years.
It did not, and would probably have never been passed if it did.
“The Court is free to interpret legislation but not to rewrite
it,” quipped Peggy Nance, President of Concerned Women for
However, with the constitutional issue settled, the public has a
clear political choice in November. It can vote for Obama or
Romney who promises to begin to repeal and replace Obamacare on
Robert Samuelson, an economic columnist with the Washington
Post, wrote before the Court’s decision that Obama “committed a
colossal error of judgment in making health care a centerpiece
of his first term.”
“It increases uncertainty and decreases confidence when recovery
Great Recession requires more confidence and less uncertainty.”
For example, 30% of employers might drop health insurance of
employees and pay fines. That would save them a lot of money,
but require millions to buy insurance they now get free. The
government would subsidize the purchase for incomes up to
$92,200, but that only widens the deficit.
The law also discourages job creation by raising the cost of
hiring. Only firms with 50 employees are required to buy health
insurance, so many will keep their employees to 49 workers or
Samuelson argues that “Uncontrolled health spending is the U.S.
system’s main problem – and ACA makes it worse.” The law gives
30 million people health care, which will only drive up costs
for everyone. Medicare and Medicaid already consume a quarter
of federal spending and is headed to a third. ACA only adds to
ACA will cost $1.76 trillion over the next decade. Some of that
is offset by tax increases and proposed cuts of Medicare (which
seems unlikely). America is already spending 40% more than it
takes in taxes.
Perhaps most important is that the new law discriminates against
the young in favor of the old. Remember when you were 25 or
30? Did you have health insurance? Probably not, assuming you
were not likely to have cancer or a heart attack. ACA forces the
young to not only buy insurance, but an expensive version, to
bring in the revenue needed to subsidize the sick and elderly.
One conservative observer commented, “I think the Supreme Court
ruling may have awakened a sleeping giant. Obama may have won
the battle in the Supreme Court, but the war is yet to be waged
True, but Romney has muddled the tax issue. He could campaign
against the new Obama tax, but he first called it a “penalty,”
he did in Massachusetts. Two days later, on the Fourth of July,
he called it a tax.
Sen. Santorum warned us about this.
Copyright by Michael J. McManus, President
of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.