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Jack Strayer: ObamaCare gets hauled into court and the excitement mounts

Published 8:13pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two years ago this week — March 23, 2010 — President Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, also knows as ObamaCare. The President made national health insurance reform a hallmark of his 2008 presidential election and voters elected him confident that he would deliver, which he did.

Apparently, they didn’t like what they got, because on General Election Day, 2010, according to American Political Research Inc., voters threw out 25 Democratic members of Congress based on their support of The Affordable Health Care Act. Republicans gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives and are now vowing to repeal most of the provisions of the new health care reform initiative.

But before anyone repeals anything, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in next week on the constitutionality of a key provision of the Affordable Health Care Act: the individual mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance by the beginning of 2014. Next week, we will be treated to three days of oral arguments before the nine justices of the high court. For the U.S. Supreme Court to devote that much time to one issue is extraordinary. It hasn’t happened in 45 years! As Vice President Joe Biden whispered to President Obama at the Obama bill-signing ceremony two years ago this week, “This is a BIG (blanking) deal!”

In the build-up to this exciting three-day health policy blitz, a number of reports have been issued to illustrate the other problems with ObamaCare. First, the cost. The Congressional Budge Office – a nonpartisan agency of the U.S. Congress — has re-estimated the cost of ObamaCare from its original price tag of $940 billion over the next 10 years, to a new high of $1.76 trillion!

Now that is what I call a big (blanking) re-estimation! Second, it appears that many employees who receive employer-provided health insurance will discover that it is cheaper for them to buy their own health insurance than to pay their share of their employer’s health premium costs.

Many full-time employees will choose to become independent contractors (self-employed) at the same job just to save money. Many employers will gladly support that choice, just to save money.

There are a number of very positive and constructive provisions in ObamaCare that defensive proponents of health reform remind us of from time to time. The Affordable Health Care Act does extend family coverage to children up to 26 years old. This is good.  It also provides a number of badly needed (but expensive) mandated benefits for preventive care. Some people call this “free” preventive care, but you really should read your policy to find that you are paying for free preventive care through higher premiums.  In a nod to senior citizens — the largest demographic that opposes ObamaCare — the cost of prescription drugs will drop by filling in the dreaded “donut-hole” created by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 that created the very popular Medicare Part D program.

Now, let us return to the excitement of the lead-up to the U.S. Supreme Court and the case against the individual mandate. If ObamaCare is to succeed, the individual mandate is essential.

To eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions, we need everyone insured.  Otherwise, Americans won’t buy health insurance until they get sick. That would be as practical as buying fire insurance as the fire trucks turn into your driveway!

As they say in Washington, there is a teachable moment here. Because the vote on The Affordable Health Care Act was strictly along party lines, with not a single Republican supporting it, the Affordable Health Care Act was doomed from the start. You simply cannot enact a national health insurance program based on party line votes. You need the political cover of bipartisanship and compromise. At the least, it places the Democrats in a precarious position because 23 Democratic Senate seats are in play in November. And they all voted for ObamaCare.

Most of the geeks that follow this stuff are predicting that if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that an individual mandate to purchase health insurance is an abridgement of freedom and therefore unconstitutional, the promulgation of ObamaCare’s future federal regulations will come to a screeching halt … right before Election Day in November.


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