The Supreme Court Thursday June 28 upheld the heart of President Obama’s health care law, ruling the federal government can compel Americans to purchase insurance by calling it both a tax and a mandate depending on convenience and setting a new standard for intrusion by federal authority to compel and control without limits. In failing to follow the Constitution and uniting disparate meanings, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court’s most Leftist jurists.
The complex 5-4 decision is a challenge for President Obama just months before he faces voters in a battle for re-election. Obama must defend a very unpopular program and the greatest tax increase in American history – after repeated declarations that it was not a tax. He also asserted that most could keep their same insurance and doctor, but that is increasingly unlikely to be true.
Many small manufacturing, service and retails businesses are expected to close or reduce employment and health care uncertainty will force others to horde cash reserves instead of investing in expansion or adding employees. The greatest impact, however, will be felt by individuals making around $30,000 per year – many of those “young professionals” have not before prioritized their personal spending to include insurance – now they face Penalty of Law.
For Republicans the Court’s decision returns the issue to the political battleground. The House of Representatives has scheduled a vote to repeal the entire law which is unlikely to gain approval in the Senate controlled by Democrats.
Governor Mary Fallin said, “Oklahomans have voiced their opposition to the federal health care bill from the very beginning, having approved a constitutional amendment to block the implementation of this bill in our state. We believe that, rather than Big Government bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all solutions, the free-market principles of choice and competition are the best tools at our disposal to increase access to health care and reduce costs.
“I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the federal health care law. President Obama’s health care policies will limit patients’ health care choices, reduce the quality of health care in the United States, and will cost the state of Oklahoma more than a half billion dollars in the process.
“Today’s decision highlights the importance of electing leaders who will work to repeal the federal health care law and replace it with meaningful reform focused on commonsense, market based changes,” Governor Fallin added.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe who has long opposed Obamacare reacted to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that upholds the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature legislative item declaring, “I am disappointed that the court has upheld the individual mandate as a tax.
“By ruling it a tax, I suspect that this issue will come up again in 2015 when that portion of the law goes into effect. In the meantime, even though President Obama said in 2009 that this is ‘absolutely not a tax increase,’ it turns out that Obama and the Democrats have levied an enormous tax increase on the middle and lower classes. The individual mandate will cost Americans the greater of a per-person flat fee or percentage of the household’s income. The flat fee is up to $695, and the income percentage is up to 2.5 percent. That is just not workable for most families.
“Aspects of the measure have infringed upon religious rights, cost our economy jobs, and will add to our skyrocketing federal debt. Despite promising to bring health care costs down, the Congressional Budget Office projects costs will continue to rise and more people will become dependent upon the federal government for their health care coverage. This law increases premiums for families by $2,100 per year, and will put one in six hospitals in the red because of cuts to Medicare, jeopardizing access to treatment. In addition to the $52 billion in tax penalties on employers, this law will mean 800,000 fewer jobs at a time when unemployment has been at 8 percent or higher for 40 straight months.”
Inhofe concluded, “In short, Obamacare costs too much in the form of lost rights, lost jobs, higher taxes, and increased debt. I will join with my colleagues to repeal this law and pursue sensible healthcare reform.”
Attorney General Pruitt said the future of the overreaching federal health care act is now in the hands of voters and the political process after the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court found the health care act’s individual mandate unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but allowed it as new tax.
“The Supreme Court agreed with our legal challenge that it is beyond the power of the federal government to require Americans to buy a private product under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Court also limited the ability of the federal government to coerce states into action by threatening to take away Medicaid funds,” Pruitt said.
“Unfortunately, as Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito wrote in their dissent, the Court strained to find a way to save a tax law that Congress and President Obama went to great lengths to say was not a tax when selling this health care bill to Oklahomans and the American people. If Congress wants to pass a tax, they should pass a tax and face the potential political cost. It is now up to voters to fix the situation through the political process by repealing the act and replacing it with measures that address the health care crisis within the confines of the Constitution and without heavy tax burdens on Oklahoma families.”
General Pruitt attended Thursday’s court session at the U.S. Supreme Court. He was in Washington D.C. Thursday to testify before a Congressional subcommittee on abuses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the health care act in January 2011, and filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case. Virginia and Florida also filed lawsuits, challenging the act. Twenty-five other states joined the Florida lawsuit.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s spokesman John Hart said, “Dr. Coburn will be reviewing the ruling and will respond with an updated plan to repeal and replace this unworkable law. The Court affirmed Congress’ power to tax people if they don’t eat their broccoli. Now it’s up to the American people to decide whether they will tolerate this obscene abuse of individual liberty.”
In 2009, Dr. Coburn authored the leading Obamacare alternative, the Patients’ Choice Act, with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said, “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the president’s health care law is not only disappointing—but frankly, it makes no sense. Oklahomans simply do not believe it is constitutional for the government to force individuals to purchase a private product, period. What Oklahomans want is conservative, common-sense health care reform to lower the cost of care using free-market principles. They want to protect the doctor-patient relationship and make sure we have access to the care we need. Worse yet, the president’s health care law will continue undermining this fragile Obama economy by driving up health care costs and squeezing the job creators in Oklahoma and around the country. We must turn our focus toward November and elect leaders who will repeal and replace ObamaCare.”
Democrat Candidate for Congress in Oklahoma’s First District, John Olson in a statement said, “The heat and fury surrounding the Affordable Care Act obscured the fact that many parts of the law are broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Olson said. “Surveys show that over 80% of all Americans — from both parties — are in favor of allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance, not allowing women with breast cancer to be denied coverage and ending lifetime caps that forced families into bankruptcy.
“I have said all along that the so-called individual mandate should be called what the Supreme Court has affirmed: a tax on those who choose not to buy insurance. All of us use the health-care system, whether we have insurance or not,” said Olson adding, "I look forward to working in Congress to address the flaws in the ACA, and continue to improve and expand the right to affordable health care that we all share."
Congressman Allen West (R-FL) said, "The United States Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by extending the power of the United States Congress to tax Americans’ behavior. This is a sad day for Americans, as they will be taxed to pay for benefits they may not need or want as part of the insurance they are forced to buy. With this decision, Congress has been granted infinite taxation power, and there are no longer any limits on what the federal government can tax its citizens to do.
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will hit the middle class especially hard, as hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as businesses try to avoid the penalties and costs created by the healthcare law. The healthcare law will cost trillions of dollars, raise costs for employers and create huge incentives for them to drop health insurance.
“Benjamin Franklin did indeed state, ‘In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’ However, Dr. Franklin never envisioned the federal government would use its power of taxation to punish people for not purchasing health care. Today, individual sovereignty in America has been defeated," Rep. West said in closing.
According to researchers from the Oklahoma’Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), the Court’s decision to uphold the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reemphasizes the need for action at the ballot box and the need for Oklahoma policymakers to protect patients and taxpayers from the law’s harmful side effects.
"While it is difficult not to be disappointed by the Court’s decision," says law professor Andrew Spiropoulos, OCPA’s Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, "there is a silver lining to the black cloud of state intrusion that hangs over us. The fate of the President’s scheme and our liberty now rest where they should — in our own hands and ballots. No constitution or court can save us if we are unwilling to save ourselves."
"Now that the Court has upheld key parts of this unaffordable, irresponsible, and wasteful law, it is more important than ever for Oklahoma’s political leaders to advance state-led and patient-centered reforms that help the poor, the sick, and the taxpayers," adds Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director at OCPA.
Mr. Small, who formerly served as director of government affairs for Commissioner Kim Holland at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, says state policymakers must advance genuine reform. Specifically:
• Oklahoma lawmakers should move immediately to limit spending and should not expand the state’s budget-busting Medicaid program (expansion is allowed by ACA but not required).
• Lawmakers should stop raiding the InsureOklahoma program (to the tune of more than $120 million to date) and instead should shift the emphasis in Medicaid toward getting participants onto private health insurance. "We need to empower people to escape from the Medicaid ghetto," says Mr. Small, "and give them the dignity of having their own health insurance."
• Lawmakers and the private sector must build state-based firewalls — such as a state-based, almost exclusively private-sector-operated insurance marketplace — to minimize the intrusion of the federal government into the insurance market in Oklahoma.
• Given the penalties for employers not providing coverage — which are more desirable than the mandate-heavy high-cost ACA plans — state lawmakers should plan to cease offering state-employee health coverage if ACA is not repealed. The penalty for not providing the coverage will be significantly less than continuing the state’s current high-cost plans.
• Policymakers should encourage transparency in medical pricing, of the sort practiced by the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
• Policymakers should equalize the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance and employer-provided insurance.
"I can attest firsthand that when politicians in Washington try to take over health care, the side effects are painful," says Mr. Small.