Will ‘Obamacare‘ survive?
By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis
The Supreme Court last week heard a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act ― the health-care reform law better known as "Obamacare." The justices may choose to strike down its order that every U.S. citizen buy health insurance or pay a penalty. And they could strike down the entire law, which features a number of other features.
Will the law survive? If not, what's next?
Here is the cure for what ails Obamacare ― good old-fashioned socialized medicine.
Many Republicans will tell you that's exactly what Obamacare is.
They're wrong. The program ― as conceived ― is a last-ditch effort to save private health-insurance companies in America.
It's also perfectly designed to make everybody feel like their rights are being tromped upon: "Tea Party" movement conservatives can feel like their freedom is being trampled by making them buy a product they'd probably buy anyway; lefty Occupy Wall Streeters can harrumph because that money goes straight to big corporations that they hate. Nobody is happy, except for a few upper-echelon insurance executives.
Maybe we're better off if the Supreme Court strikes the law down. And I say that as a liberal, one who favors universal health insurance.
The insurance mandate was a half-step toward that goal. Let's take the full step: Single-payer health insurance, run and administered by the government, with no private-sector middlemen to add costs and reap profits from taxpayers.
Certain conservatives will still complain about the constitutionality of such a program, but most ― even ones who think an insurance mandate is unconstitutional ― will admit the government can make you pay taxes.
Others will haul out the old lies about "death panels" or being forced to wait years for a cataract surgery that never comes. Don't listen to them.
We already have government-run health insurance in America. It's called Medicare. There are no death panels. It receives higher customer-satisfaction marks than private health plans. And over the decades, Medicare spending has grown at a slower rate than private health spending.
Universal coverage. Lower costs. Higher satisfaction. Single-payer health coverage is far better than letting poor Americans die because they couldn't afford insurance. Obamacare is the first step. It shouldn't be the last.
Remember when Democrats were so certain that Obamacare was such a great idea that they blithely dismissed any questions about the law's constitutionality? "Are you serious? Are you serious?" a disbelieving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., replied in 2009 to a question from a reporter who asked, "Where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health mandate?" Justice Anthony Kennedy was dead serious when he asked the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, essentially the same question last week.
"Assume for the moment that this (mandate) is unprecedented, this is a step beyond what our cases have allowed," Kennedy said. "If that is so, do you not have a heavy burden of justification?" Verrilli replied that Congress has the authority under the Constitution's "necessary and proper clause" to coerce every American into the insurance market, but Kennedy and his conservative colleagues sounded skeptical, to say the least.
What Congress has attempted with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unprecedented in our history and unlimited in scope. If the federal government can mandate health insurance, it can mandate just about anything.
The law needs to go. But what should replace it? Not "socialized medicine." The problem with the single-payer fantasy is it makes promises the government cannot keep. The health-care budget is not unlimited. Government would make choices about your health care based not on what you need, but how much a procedure costs. If you are old or you have a rare or malignant illness, you're out of luck.
In truth, that's becoming the case more and more under our existing system, which is why reform remains essential. One Republican proposal would scrap the current, inefficient system with one that would give individuals and families a refundable tax credit between $2,500 and $8,000 a year to buy their own insurance.
Such a system would "subsidize the core insurance that everyone should have," argues John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, but "it would not subsidize all the bells and whistles, as the current system does."
And the best part: It wouldn't be coercive.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Joel Mathis is a writer in Philadelphia. Email the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Or see www.facebook.com/benandjoel. The article was distributed by Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).