Living in an Obamacare world

The Obamacare decision handed down by the Supreme Court has at least one side benefit: in upholding the mandate, the Supreme Court has re-energized the tea party movement. The majority of Americans strongly oppose the mandate (67 percent according to this poll), and the act of getting government even more involved with health care has caused millions of Americans to question how exactly it is constitutional. More people reading the Constitution is a very good thing. Tea party groups are already reporting a flood of energized people calling and e-mailing to fight Obamacare.

Make no mistake: the decision is a disaster for freedom-loving people. Congress has official permission to do anything to you as long as they call it a “tax.” So, we really are living in an Obamacare world, an Orwellian place where presidents promise they will not raise your taxes and then immediately do and where government bureaucrats are more firmly entrenched in your health care decisions (as if dealing with health insurance was not already painful enough). Big Brother is watching your prostate exam!

The most horrific thing about Obamacare is the lack of basic logic behind it. Follow along:

1)You must buy health insurance, but if you don’t want to you don’t have to, and you can pay a fine (this is the tax).
2)The tax is significantly lower than the cost of insurance, partly because insurance has to cover all kinds of things it didn’t have to cover before.
3)Companies have to provide coverage or they also will be taxed, but again the tax is much lower than the cost of insurance, so companies have an incentive to drop coverage.
4)If your company doesn’t cover you, or you are self-employed, what do you do? Well, you just pay the tax until you are sick, and then you buy coverage because of course insurance companies cannot reject you for any reason.

See how wonderful this is? Your taxes are raised to pay for insurance you don’t want. Companies are incentivized to drop coverage. Insurance companies are forced to cover all kinds of conditions that have nothing to do with insurance (remember, insurance is for catastrophic events — you don’t buy car insurance for oil changes but for when you get in a crash or when your car is stolen). And health insurance costs will continue to spiral up because most rational actors will not buy insurance until they are sick, and insurance companies must cover them and pay.

The end result, if Obamacare continues on its merry way to ruining our lives, will be:

1)Fewer companies offering health insurance as a benefit.
2)More people and companies paying taxes.
3)Fewer doctors willing to continue to deal with the health insurance bureaucracy rather than the reason they got into medicine in the first place, ie, healing sick people. The doctor shortage will worsen.
4)Health insurance moving farther and farther away from being actual insurance and premiums getting massively more expensive.

In short, you will be taxed more, will have fewer doctors to see, your health insurance costs will go up, and your company may very well drop coverage. Ain’t that great!

There is one silver lining in the Supreme Court decision. The Supremes said Obamacare could not be justified under the commerce clause, and this is a very good thing.

As Prof. Randy Barnett, perhaps the leading legal opponent of Obamacare, writes:

Today the court reaffirmed the traditional view that there must be a judicially-enforceable limit on the powers of Congress. From now on, Congress will need to take the limits of its own power seriously, because it can be assured that the court will be looking over its shoulder.

The election in November will now be about whether to replace Obamacare with market-based, consumer-driven health-care reforms that actually improve our health-care system, but it will also be about the Constitution. Voters can elect more “constitutional conservatives” to Congress who will take the message of today’s ruling to heart: their powers are limited by Article I of the Constitution. Voters must also insist that the next president fill vacancies on the Supreme Court with “constitutional conservative” justices who have the intestinal fortitude to withstand the intense political pressure that was brought to bear on Chief Justice Roberts after oral argument, beginning with statements by President Obama.

Whatever happens at the polls, however, by affirming that the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution have judicially enforceable limits, today’s decision will be a landmark of constitutional law.

Prof. Barnett’s long-term view provides some encouragement to liberty-lovers. There is a possible future where we will not all face DMV-like lines when we go to the doctor (see nightmare pic above).

Congress does have the power to do whatever it wants to you as long as it calls it a “tax.” BUT, Congress can no longer (in theory) use the commerce clause to justify these assaults on your freedom.

Which brings me to the question of what we must do next. As Prof. Barnett indicates, there is a possible solution, and that is to elect people who will respect the Constitution and decrease the size and power of government, not increase it.

This is the time when I must address arguments made by my liberty-loving friends, who basically say that we cannot elect most Republicans because they will, like Chief Justice Roberts, sell us out at the end of the day. My answer is: I agree with you. Most Republicans will sell us out. All Democrats will. So, we now face the following choices:

1)Don’t vote.
2)Vote for Obama and Democrats under the theory that making things worse faster will hasten the end and bring a quicker change.
3)Vote for the Libertarian party, which, let’s face it, has a much better platform and has clearly put forward a principled opposition to abominations like Obamacare.
4)Hold your nose and vote for Mitt Romney and (some) Republican candidates while we try to reform the Republican party in a pro-liberty direction.

Here are my answers to these choices.

1)This is a vote for Obama.
2)We don’t know what will happen at “the end.” We could get our own version of Hugo Chavez or Stalin.
3)If you live in a state like Utah, I encourage you to vote for the Libertarian party. If you live in a swing state, I encourage number 4.
4)This is my choice.

If the Supreme Court decision proves anything, it is the power of the federal courts to determine our future. You could make a strong argument that the courts are now the most powerful branch of government (which was definitely not the Founders’ intent, but here we are). This situation makes it more clear than ever that we must choose candidates who will support liberty-loving justices — that is, unless you want to spend the rest of your life in a DMV-like line at the hospital.

Note to readers: all comments will be moderated. Your comment very likely may not appear, based entirely on my whim. If you don’t like it, go read another blog.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

21 thoughts on “Living in an Obamacare world

  1. It’s kind of a strange thing to call a tax, but that was the way it was originally described by the Heritage Foundation, when they first proposed the health insurance mandate in the 90s. I only wish it was a real tax, into a single payer system. Instead, we have a convoluted mess that will be almost impossible to sort out, and probably, you are right Geoff, will raise premiums.

  2. Geoff, its often said of our political discourse, that we only listen to what we want to hear, from the sources that will enforce out already established opinion.

    My point in commenting here, is to ask a sincere question that I truly want to understand – from a conservative source. I haven’t been able to find an opponent of the Obama mandate who will engage me. So, I ask with a ear for listening – How is yesterdays ruling any more freedom killing than the 1989 Heritage proposal and the 2006 Romney Mass. mandate? Why was there no outrage then?

  3. For my part I, and many others, have pledged we no longer hold elegance to this once great Republic and now dictatorship. No longer will I show respect for the flag or sing any patriotic songs until this evil of ObamaTAX is repealed. This November is the last chance the people have to prove freedom and the U.S. Constitution mean anything to the majority. If Obama is reelected then I don’t know what to do, but I know that at the least I will disengage and revolt in word if not deed.

  4. There are several significant practical problems with Obamacare. The most serious problem perhaps is a major new entitlement that will speed the fiscal collapse of the federal government, and require ordinary income taxes to rise more than $200 billion a year after that to keep it on the books.

    The second most serious problem is that the definition of minimum essential coverage is likely to cause health insurance costs in most states to approximately double by requiring insurance plans to cover all sorts of things that people wouldn’t spend their own money on. This is going to hit employers and people with individual coverage very hard.

    The third major problem is that HHS is busy interpreting the medical loss ratio rules to make high deductible health plans practically illegal, forcing people who want inexpensive health insurance to purchase plans that are much more expensive or do without.

    The fourth problem is that guaranteed issue is not likely to be sustainable, especially since the above requirements will give people a greater incentive to avoid purchasing health care insurance then they have now.

    The fifth problem is of course that because of the increased costs, it is relatively likely the the number of people with health insurance will go down, not up.

    In short, the entire idea is to make people purchase expensive health insurance, make it impossible for them to purchase inexpensive health insurance, and to create a massive new entitlement to subsidize the difference for people who aren’t in the middle class or above.

  5. CTJ, since you phrase it this way, I will attempt a discussion on this, although I am pessimistic, based on my past interactions with liberals (which you appear to be) that anything good will come out of it. But here’s hoping!

    I am not a traditional conservative. I am a libertarian-leaning person who is trying to reform the Republican party in a pro-liberty direction. I have always opposed mandates. The purpose of government is to enforce property rights and protect people from harm. A just government is one that a)protects people from aggression and b)respects property rights. Mandates are an aggression in that they force people to do something they do not want to do, and they take away peoples’ property, so they are bad in every possible way and a direct violation of the proper role of government. And yes this means that government should not force people to stop smoking pot, and yes it means we should only favor defensive wars. Wars that do not involve us directly defending the United States are wars of aggression and should be opposed. The death penalty involves the government committing aggression against people who can simply be locked up for life, so the death penalty should be opposed (I mention these examples in an attempt to show that my philosophy is an attempt to be consistent).

    The Heritage Foundation favors all kinds of things (like the drug war, foreign wars and the death penalty) that involve aggression against people, so I oppose their positions in a lot of areas. As for Romneycare, if I lived in Massachusetts I would have been screaming my head off about how horrible it was. It is just as bad on a state level as Obamacare is on a national level. The only possible saving grace is that Romneycare is undoubtably constitutional because the Constitution clearly allows state sovereignty over these issues. But was Romney wrong to support Romneycare? Yes, he was.

    “why was there no outrage?” The answer is that there was some outrage, but the bigger answer is that Republicans don’t get it. My goal is, in my own little way, to help them get it.

  6. Geoff, I’m a pragmatist, not a liberal. Libertarians like you who are consistent in their outrage for anything more than enforcing property rights and protecting people from harm, have a license for outrage. I don’t agree with your political philosophy, but I won’t call you a hypocrite. You’re a rare breed however. Many Ron Paul supporters I speak with, for example, have no idea how far you have to take it to be a true libertarian. And many Republicans in office these days like to talk like libertarians and feign outrage at mandates and other current liberal ideas (that originated with Republicans)but they’re only playing a partisan game. (very little public conservative outrage at the Patriot Act outside of the crowd – for example)

    (btw, Democrats of course commit all kinds of hypocrisy as well, its just not so recently obvious)

  7. I too would like to know why, if the mandate is so evil, Republicans promoted the idea in the first place, why Orrin Hatch supported it, why Romney followed it to a t in designing Massachusett’s healthcare plan? Is it only evil because Democrats passed it?

  8. Don, I answer your question in number 7. The short answer: there are a lot of idiotic Republicans, including Orrin Hatch. Oh how I wish we could move away from this false right-left paradigm. The only thing that matters is: are you in favor of more liberty or less?

    CTJ, I would hope as a pragmatist, you would consider the pragmatic problems with Obamacare that I mention in my post and Mark D’s excellent comment number 6.

  9. Geoff, I’m not in favor of emergency-room-free-rides. I’m also not in favor of letting people bleed in the streets. So, the mandate is actually a centrist position – not one of the signs of the times. You can name it on your personal list of freedom killers, but please don’t cry Lenin a half century after Medicare and Social Security.

  10. CTJ, a lot more people will be bleeding in the streets when we default on our debt and/or face massive inflation because of all of the government spending. While I don’t doubt your good intentions, the end result of Obamacare and Medicaid and Medicare is national bankruptcy, inflation and civil unrest. So it is not very pragmatic to not consider the end game.

    If you really are interested in another approach that will cause a lot fewer people to bleed in the streets, please read this:

  11. And, I would like to point out, it is not very compassionate to saddle the young people of today with higher taxes while the relatively wealthy mature generation continues to enjoy unfettered access to Medicare. The people I really feel sorry for are my children and the people in their 20s, who will be paying for our profligacy the rest of their lives.

  12. DMV lines, at least in California, really aren’t bad if you have an appointment. It always mystifies me the number of people who will stand in line rather than make an appointment.

  13. CTJ – The big difference between what happened with MA and Obamacare is what happened with MA did not apply to the rest of the nation. People who are concerned with liberty would be right to be extremely upset if whatever happens in MA could apply to the rest of the states. Otherwise why have states at all.

    And here is my big concern with Obamacare. It’s bad law, and it’s bad law that is applied to every state, whether the state wants it or not. MA taught us, that if a state wants to do something like this, it can. What do we need to have the federal government foist upon Utah what Utah does not want? Does it bring joy into the heart of New Yorkers to force Arizona to do what Arizona does not want to do? That is what liberty minded people should be concerned about. Does it make health care or insurance any better in NY to require Arizona to comply with Obamacare? Can the citizens of Arizona decide to go in a different direction than Obamacare now that it will be forced to do so?

    MA proved that states can enact reforms in this area, as wise or as foolish as they wish. Obamacare reduces the ability of states and their residents to decide for themselves. It will be impossible for UT or AZ, etc to convince the rest of the nation that what Utah wants is good for the nation — and why should it?!? But Obamacare has now made it impossible for Utah to decide for itself.

    That is a serious problem.

  14. “The people I really feel sorry for are my children and the people in their 20s, who will be paying for our profligacy the rest of their lives.”

    Yup. The next generation will reap the whirlwind of collapsing safety nets, garbage currencies, etc. I’ve said it before: What happens when the safety net ITSELF needs a safety net just to keep moving forward? We were already structurally broke from Social Security and Medicare and the prescription drug coverage that the GOP added nearly 10 years ago. Now with Obamacare on top of it, there isn’t enough money in the world to pay for it all.

  15. “You can name it on your personal list of freedom killers, but please don’t cry Lenin a half century after Medicare and Social Security.”

    Just because the US passed unsustainable reforms in the past doesn’t mean we can’t reverse the direction we’re going. In fact, it’s all the more reason to scrutinize any new social welfare initiatives because they’re having a cumulative impact. The current trend is leading toward economic collaspe. Liberals seem to want to tax, borrow, and spend with nary a thought about who’s paying the bill. It seems to me a truly compassionate person would see the big picture and realize that the young and future generations are part of the social welfare equation. I guess in their minds it doesn’t include economic welfare.

  16. Let me reflect on the decision from an independent standpoint — though leaning conservative and libertarian. My focus is the proper role of government. However, on this issue I want to approach it pragmatically.

    The number one and by far and away largest problem with health care is the cost. It is just too expensive. That is why we have to spread the cost in insurance pools in the first place. The second problem is that usual market forces don’t work. No one I know has ever gone to a health care provider and bartered a price, or shopped doctors based on cost. I don’t even know what I’m paying until I get the bill.

    The problem with Obamacare is that is makes health insurance more expensive. It requires covering a lot more people who don’t pay nearly what the cost of providing for them will be. Those who previously were rejected because they had preexisting conditions will have to be picked up. That is just merciful. Right now there are tremendous resources through charities to pay for these expenses when they are catastrophic but the average person rarely gets a charity to pay for costs they cannot afford when they get denied insurance coverage for a preexisting condition.

    I own a business. I pay the insurance for a several employees. It is expensive and prices went up way disproportionately when Obamacare passed. They will go up way more when the remaining provisions kick in. I will likely have to lay off some employees as a result — and I’m not alone. Now all those I laid off (and the employers like me) will need coverage as well that they cannot pay for. They will have COBRA and Obamacare that guarantees they can get insurance — they just have no way to pay for it. So they will pay the tax — the most massive tax increase in our country’s history.

    As a business, I could choose to pay the tax penalty, but I won’t do because I have key employees that are necessary to my business who must have healthcare. If I had to pay the tax it may save an employee or two from losing a job, but it wouldn’t solve the problem.

    So we will have additional unemployment to pay the cost of Obamacare. We will have fewer employed to pay it. The costs of medical insurance will inevitably rise pretty drastically thus exacerbating the primary problem. Instead of solving the real problem, it makes it worse.

    Let’s also notice how much the Democrats would hate this if they weren’t so entrenched in their own political quagmire. This is the largest tax increase in the history of our country that will be paid by those who could not afford health insurance — those making less than $50K a year. If they woke up and smelled the gin spiked coffee, they would realize that they too have betrayed fundamental ideals of their political philosophy. That is why it is so disingenuous to suggest that Republicans alone have betrayed their prior proposals because they proposed something similar to Obamacare.

    In Massachussetts requiring health care made sense to me because of the State’s demographics and employment rate — at the time Romney passed it. The individual mandate is essential to the entire scheme. However, it isn’t working great in Massachussetts – but in my view it was worth looking at as innovation to see how it would work in a rather ideal situation before trying it nationwide. It also has the added incredible advantage that it clearly is not unconstitutional — and if you think that the semantic game played by the Supreme Court about a penalty rather than a tax when the Congressional record is full of claims that it isn’t tax but a penalty only undermine the credibility of our legal system.

    The biggest cost is the expansive tax power of Congress as Geoff B. says. I don’t care about limits under the Commerce Clause if the taxing power is so expansive the Feds can force me to buy something I don’t want or face a tax for it. The rule of law has now been disregarded by the Obama administration by picking and choosing the laws it selectively refuses to enforce (e.g., immigration laws and DOMA). The cost is huge — the executive branch of our government charged with enforcing laws is teaching us that laws are enforces only if you agree with them and it is politically advantageous to do so. The seeds of collapse of a country are built into that conduct.

  17. Am I in favor of more liberty or less? Depends on what you’re talking about. Freedom to go bankrupt from medical care costs that you cannot pay? Freedom to not get health insurance because of preconditions that private insurers will not cover? Freedom to show up at a hospital with serious illness or injury with no insurance and expect everyone else to pay my bills, as they do now, through the cost shift to those who have private insurance? This (the mandate) was a Republican idea, and it was promoted by Republicans for the express purpose of keeping the freee market in healthcare. I worked for the private health insurance business for many years, and if you can tell me how the market can solve all these problems without all citizens participating, I would be glad to hear it. I am required to have auto insurance to drive my car or any car. I guess I have the freedom not to drive, but I prefer the freedom to drive. And if that costs a bit and if it is mandatory, so be it. The same with healthcare. For me, one of those lucky Americans who lives in suburbia, has good employer-provided health insurance coverage, life is great. As for the rest, maybe I should just say tough bananas. I just can’t do that.

  18. “Freedom to go bankrupt from medical care costs that you cannot pay.”

    Don, here is the reality of the world.

    When you decided to come here to this Earth, you made the decision aware that bad things can happen to you. You can lose your job, be born blind, die in a horrible war started by tyrants thousands of miles away, be the victim of a mugging, etc, etc. You made this decision to come to the Earth even though you knew that some bad things definitely would happen to you.

    And the driving force, the principle you accepted when you came was: bad things may happen to me, but it is better to risk those bad things because through bad experiences I can learn and progress, etc.

    But you also learned: it is good for me to have freedom, and it is better for me to respect the freedom of others. This is the example of the Savior, who put forward a plan where we honor freedom even though it means bad things will happen.

    Obamacare is based on the assumption that to stop some people from going bankrupt, you must intrude on the liberty of all people. This is a direct violation of the first principle of freedom, which is that you must respect the freedom of others.

    The truth is that the world you have chosen to live in is one of envy and coveting. You talk about “lucky Americans” as if the only thing important in life is money. As you should know, every “lucky” suburbanite with health insurance has a long list of problems that may or may not have nothing to do with health insurance. They are all facing their own issues and problems, but you choose to see them as “lucky” because you assume that others envy the material things they (and you) have, while ignoring all of their other potential problems. A truly charitable person would say: I will honor their freedom to live in peace without envying what they have and without trying to take away anything from them. I will learn to to let go of my covetous nature (which we all have to a certain extent) and simply let them exist without aggression against them.

    What we all want is for people with things to voluntarily choose to give to others who have fewer things. This is clearly the model in the scriptures. But the use of force and aggression to force people to give when they don’t want to is counterproductive and ends up fostering more envy and covetousness and more resentment and contention. Let it go. Let people be free to make their own good and bad choices.

    That is what liberty is all about.

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