A Brief Argument Against Obamacare
In the last few years America has seen an expansion of federal powers due to the emersion of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The debate continues to rage on, but there are many issues with merit that must be addressed regarding the law’s constitutionality. This essay will attempt to shed light on these constitutional issues while providing a brief history of Obamacare, discussing federal powers, individual rights, the importance of state governance and the US Constitution.
Proponents of Obamacare tout its accomplishments. As Paul John Scott wrote in his article titled Obamacare: A Hater's Guide, “The vast majority of Americans are finally insured against disaster: The percentage of people with no coverage fell by a quarter, from 18 percent to 13 percent, partly because you now must have insurance or pay a penalty” (Scott, 2014). This 5% reduction in people without health insurance coverage is considered a positive outcome of Obamacare; however, there is another side of this debate. Many Americans cannot afford the cost of their new healthcare plans. When discussing how many patients have been affected by Obamacare’s steep premiums and even steeper deductibles Dr. Flippo Masciarelli, chief physician at the Denton, Texas Community Care Center said, “There are quite a few, and I saw another one today, where their deductibles are so elevated that they can't afford them" (Angle, 2014). On ObamacareFacts.com, one citizen reported: “My insurance went up $400 per month and my deductible went from $2500 per year to $12,000. I now have a $6000 medical bill to pay. This plan is a disaster and is financially crushing my family” (Obamacare Facts, 2014).
The entire purpose of insurance is to protect the insured from financial catastrophe. Due to insurance premiums doubling and tripling what customers were originally paying, coupled with the massive deductible increases, Obamacare itself has become a financial catastrophe. This leads us to the debate over individual rights. Americans in lower income brackets qualify for subsidies, which will help cover the high cost of their healthcare plan, but where does this money come from? Answer: Americans who do not qualify for subsidies! Obamacare has essentially mandated every single American to buy a product and those who do not buy the product are penalized financially. This penalty has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court as a tax and we will get to the issues that arise from this ruling, but first, let us discuss the constitutionality of the federal government forcing someone to buy a product. There is nowhere in the Constitution that expressly gives Congress or the President the authority to force American citizens to buy health insurance or any other product for that matter. So where does Congress claim to get the authority for their actions? The general welfare clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, which gives Congress the power to provide for the general welfare of the United States. However, during the debates over this clause James Madison made several arguments that:
“the power to tax and spend did not confer upon Congress the right to do whatever it thought to be in the best interest of the nation, but only to further the ends specifically enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution, a position supported by Thomas Jefferson.” (Heritage.org, 2014)
As there is nowhere else in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to mandate every American citizen to buy a product or else be penalized, James Madison, who is known as the father of the Constitution, would likely disagree with using the general welfare clause in such a manner. It is also important to note that a program such as Obamcare, which is essentially an experiment in healthcare reform, would be better off left to the States. This is because “America always is more likely to have a few wise state governments than a wise federal government” (Will, 2007). When the federal government begins conducting experiments in governance on a national level, we are more inclined to fail on a national level. Think about how scientists conduct experiments in a laboratory. Do they use just one lab rat? Answer: Of course not! They use many lab rats to ensure success of the experiment. If they get positive results with one test subject, they try to copy the conditions that lead to the success. If the federal government allowed the states to govern themselves as they saw fit, the states that were failing would look to the states that are succeeding and emulate them. Containing experiments at the state level instead of the national level would also ensure that negative effects from governmental failures would not be felt nationwide.
However, the entire premise of Obamacare is arguably immoral. The concept of taking money from one segment of society, through increased health insurance premiums, with a product that is congressionally mandated for one to buy and then giving that money to another segment of society to use for their healthcare insurance creates an ethical dilemma. By all accounts, this could and rightfully should be considered state sanctioned theft. The citizens who are paying for lower income subsidies have absolutely no option to opt out. They either pay more for their insurance or they pay a penalty. In either case their money goes to someone else’s health insurance. When someone takes something from a person without their permission that is called stealing. When the threat of force is used in conjunction then that it is called robbery. There can be no better way to describe Obamacare’s funding mechanisms.
Let us now turn our focus to the history of Obamacare’s passage. “On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law” (Obamacare Facts, 2014). It was passed into law without a single Republican vote. According to the Galen Institute, “more than 42 significant changes already have been made to ObamaCare: at least 24 that President Obama has made unilaterally, 16 that Congress has passed and the president has signed, and 2 by the Supreme Court” (Galen Institute, 2014). As a result there are at least two central constitutional concerns regarding Obamacare based on these changes alone.
Firstly, the President of the United States does not have the authority to change laws, create laws or nullify laws. His job is to enforce the laws. President Obama’s actions have violated his oath of office to uphold the Constitution. His actions are an affront to the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution in order to obtain checks and balances. An all-powerful President was of paramount concern during the Constitutional Convention and these checks and balances were established as a method to prevent one person from amassing too much power.
Secondly, as was mentioned before, the United States Supreme Court violated the Constitution when they made their ruling on Obamacare. When they ruled that the federal government has the power to lay taxes, they decided to change the wording of the law, from penalty to tax. This is completely unconstitutional. The Judicial Branch has no power or authority granted in the Constitution to change laws. If the law, as it was written, was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court was constitutionally required to rule against the law and in doing so, Obamacare would have been sent back to Congress. Instead, they opted to unconstitutionally change the law in violation of their oaths of office and creating even more controversy.
Additionally, another constitutional conundrum has been the source of debate. This issue stems from where a law pertaining to taxes must originate. The Constitution mandates that all bills pertaining to taxes must originate in the House of Representatives. This is because they were originally the house of Congress most answerable to the people prior to the ratification of the seventeenth amendment, which gave citizens the ability to vote for their senators. As originally adopted the Constitution gave the state legislatures the responsibility to elect their state’s senators. The problem with Obamacare is that it originated in the Senate. According to George F. Will in an article on The Washington Post, “the ACA — was indisputably a revenue measure and unquestionably did not originate in the House” (Will, 2014). This is yet another clear violation of the Constitution and puts even more doubt over Obamacare’s legitimacy.
In summary, Obamacare originated in the Senate, but was constitutionally required to originate in the House of Representatives. It has been changed unconstitutionally by both the President and the Supreme Court. It perverts the intention of the general welfare clause and it is arguably outside the scope and authority given to Congress by the US Constitution. The Constitution does not expressly give Congress the power to force American citizens to purchase a product. The passage of this unjust law has essentially created state sanctioned strong arm robbery in the form of higher insurance premiums and penalties/taxes. There is no doubt that Obamacare has violated the Constitution on numerous occasions; however, it has also created real ethical questions about what the US government can force American citizens to do. It ultimately comes down to the federal government’s implied powers vs. individual rights and this author hopes that the rights of individuals will prevail.
John Scott, P. (2014). Obamacare: A Hater's Guide. Men's Health, 29(10), 113-118. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
Angle, J. (2014, November 4). Some ObamaCare patients with high deductibles turning to community care centers. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/04/some-obamacare-patients-with-high-deductibles-turning-to-community-care-centers/
Obamacare Facts. (2014). ObamaCare Stories: Real Life Stories on ObamaCare. Retrieved from http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-stories/
Heritage.org (2014). The Heritage Guide to The Constitution. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/34/spending-clause
Galen Institute. 42 Changes to ObamaCare...So Far. (2014, November 6). Retrieved from http://www.galen.org/newsletters/changes-to-obamacare-so-far/
Will, G. (May 2, 2014). George F. Will: The next Affordable Care Act challenge. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-f-will-the-next-affordable-care-act-challenge/2014/05/02/c0150da8-d159-11e3-a6b1-45c4dffb85a6_story.html
Will, G. F. (2007, Dec 09). Getting past 'no child'. The Washington Post Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/410179847?accountid=32521