Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter 3 Share on Facebook 2 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 3 (8 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites (# of views)   32 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Why the New Healthcare Law Should Have Been Based on Medicare (And What Democrats Should Have Learned By Now)

By       Message Robert B. Reich     Permalink
      (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Supported 2   Must Read 1   News 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to None 8/16/11

Author 47089
Become a Fan
  (116 fans)
- Advertisement -

Two appellate judges in Atlanta -- one appointed by President Bill Clinton and one by George H.W. Bush -- have just decided the Constitution doesn't allow the federal government to require individuals to buy health insurance.

The decision is a major defeat for the White House. The so-called "individual mandate" is a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's 2010 health-care reform law, scheduled to go into effect in 2014.

The whole idea of the law is to pool heath risks. Only if everyone buys insurance can insurers afford to cover people with preexisting conditions, or pay the costs of catastrophic diseases.

The issue is now headed for the Supreme Court (another appellate court has upheld the law's constitutionality) where the prognosis isn't good. The Court's Republican-appointed majority has not exactly distinguished itself by its progressive views.   

Chalk up another one for the GOP, outwitting and outflanking the President and the Democrats.

Remember the health-care debate? Congressional Republicans refused to consider a single-payer system that would automatically pool risks. They wouldn't even consider giving people the option of buying into it.

The President and the Democrats caved, as they have on almost everything. They came up with a compromise that kept health care in the hands of private insurance companies.

The only way to spread the risk in such a system is to require everyone buy insurance.

- Advertisement -

Which is exactly what the two appellate judges in Atlanta object to. The Constitution, in their view, doesn't allow the federal government to compel citizens to buy something. "Congress may regulate commercial actors," they write. "But what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die."

Most Americans seem to agree. According to polls, 60 percent of the public opposes the individual mandate. Many on the right believe it a threat to individual liberty. Many on the left object to being required to buy something from a private company.

Had the President and the Democrats stuck to their guns during the health-care debate and insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option, they wouldn't now be facing the possible unraveling of the new health care law.

After all, Social Security and Medicare -- the nation's two most popular safety nets -- require every working American to "buy" them. The purchase happens automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone's paychecks.  

But because Social Security and Medicare are government programs they don't feel like mandatory purchases. They're more like tax payments, which is what they are -- payroll taxes.

- Advertisement -

There's no question payroll taxes are constitutional, because there's no doubt that the federal government can tax people in order to finance particular public benefits.

Americans don't mind mandates in the form of payroll taxes for Social Security or Medicare. In fact, both programs are so popular even conservative Republicans were heard to shout "don't take away my Medicare!" at rallies opposed to the new health care law.

Requiring citizens to buy something from a private company is entirely different. If Congress can require citizens to buy health insurance from the private sector, reasoned the two appellate judges in Atlanta, what's to stop it from requiring citizens to buy anything else? If the law were to stand, "a future Congress similarly would be able to articulate a unique problem ... compelling Americans to purchase a certain product from a private company."

Next Page  1  |  2

 

- Advertisement -

Supported 2   Must Read 1   News 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

http://robertreich.org/

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.


Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The Republican's Big Lies About Jobs (And Why Obama Must Repudiate Them)

Paul Ryan Still Doesn't Get It

What Mitt Romney Really Represents

What to Do About Disloyal Corporations

The Gas Wars

The Minimum Wage, Guns, Healthcare, and the Meaning of a Decent Society