As I write, I have no idea how the U.S. Supreme Court justices will rule on the health care law before them, but it seems as though they might vote against the individual mandate section, that portion of the law that requires a person to have health care insurance.
Rejection of that one component may cause the entire complex law to collapse.
The mandate has always been a bone of contention: Those in favor say that by having a large cross-section of Americans in the plan, rates will go down for all of us, while the other side says that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to make you buy something. I’m now thinking that car safety belts, by that definition, are unconstitutional, as are motorcycle helmets.
I remember when there was a big controversy in California when helmets were first mandated for motorcyclists. The riders used the same, “Hey, it’s our constitutional right not to wear a helmet, dude,” argument. But the state of California countered that taxpayers don’t want to end up paying for long-term hospitalization and years of care for all the motorcyclists with head injuries and now, all we motorcyclists wear helmets.
The question I have for Obamacare haters is: Do you think it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate that we all purchase and wear automobile safety belts? If your answer is “yes,” your Conserv-O-Meter is pegged to the far right and you might just be a Libertarian. I feel that I must warn you that since the political spectrum is circular, not linear, you are in danger of accidentally evolving into a hippie and you need to create a better back-story. If you said “no, safety belts are not unconstitutional,” then what’s the difference between federally mandated safety belts and federally mandated health insurance? Every analogy is flawed, but I present this simply as a thought exercise, and not as a legal argument. It’s something to ponder while you wait for sleep tonight.
The health care plan has, (or had,) a lot of great features, like the ability to keep your kids on your health plan until age 26, the provision that your health care provider could not terminate you if you contracted a costly disease, and the ability to finally obtain health care insurance even if you had some pre-existing medical condition. But what I, and many others, really wanted was the federal government taking the role of “single payer,” where people could have their health care administered by the government and funded by their taxes, like every other industrialized nation. By eliminating the private insurance layer in the middle, health care costs could be reduced by up to 40 percent.
In an ideal world that’s not politicized, you could either pay your normal income tax and get government-run health care, or buy your own private health insurance and have a tax deduction. Everybody has a choice. That’s fair, isn’t it? Do you think anybody’s constitutional toes would feel stepped-on? Obviously, our federal government has the legitimate constitutional ability to use our tax dollars to provide public services, like defending our nation from enemies, protecting our environment and insuring workers’ retirement benefits. Why shouldn’t it have the ability to provide health care, too? Oh, wait, it does. It’s called Medicare and it’s a “single-payer” plan. All Congress really has to do is make it available to anyone who wants it.
One last point: If the Supreme Court eliminates this health care plan, voting along strict party lines, the resultant fallout will poison all of this November’s political races. Americans will clearly see the blood-red divide and their choice will be between humane, ethical Democratic values and stark, Republican Darwinist rule.
Mike Kirchubel is the author of “Vile Acts of Evil,” the hidden history of banking in America and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.