Thursday, January 19, 2012
Supreme Court case on Obamacare could be landmark
Before the end of its term this year, the Supreme Court is expected to make a major ruling on whether the President’s health-care law violates the Constitution by requiring every American to buy health insurance.
The case is one of the biggest legal challenges in recent memory and promises to be a pivotal moment in the effort to repeal the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has drawn resounding criticism since it became law nearly two years ago.
Outside Constitutional Limits
Last August, a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was an important win in moving Obamacare closer to Supreme Court review. The divided three-judge panel struck down the law’s controversial individual mandate because it found Washington had overstepped its powers to regulate interstate commerce as granted by the Constitution.
Judges Joel Dubina and Frank Hull wrote in the 11th Circuit’s majority opinion that making citizens purchase insurance amounted to “a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority.”
They argued that the mandate wrongly gives the federal government an unprecedented ability to regulate Americans over the course of their entire lives.
Striking the Entire Law
The decision by the appeals court to strike down the individual mandate was the right one, but it fell short of declaring the rest of the law inseparable from its linchpin provision. Removing the mandate alone would undermine the legislative process by drastically changing the bill that came to a vote in Congress.
The Supreme Court should rule the mandate unconstitutional and deem the remaining components unviable without it.
According to a recent report from the American Action Forum, the lingering provisions of the law could burden insurance companies by an estimated $360 billion over the next decade and trigger higher premiums for consumers. As the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation reported last year, health-care premiums for employer-backed insurance are already on the rise.
It is easy to see why the majority of Americans want the health-care law repealed. Its implementation has compounded our budget crisis and discouraged hiring from employers worried about regulations and unforeseen costs. Even the Obama Administration has acknowledged the flaws. It abandoned the law’s long-term care program known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act last year and granted waivers to companies, unions, and states that could not bear its costs.
Renewing the Debate
Because of the many failures of the health-care law, I am hopeful that the case before the Supreme Court will reinvigorate the call for its full repeal.
Oral arguments for the Supreme Court case are not scheduled until late March, but the first briefs filed this month have kicked off a pivotal year for the future of health care in this country.
I opposed the President’s health-care law in 2010, voted for its repeal last year, and have supported briefs outlining the merits of its legal challenge on numerous occasions. Americans should not have to bear the costs of bad policy. Instead, we need smart, market-based strategies to improve health-care reform.
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