Somebody get the GEICO gecko. He’s about to be put in charge of our health care.
In the wake of Monday’s court decision ruling the individual mandate component of ObamaCare unconstitutional, the White House is trotting out a new line, which is actually an old line, and they’re trying to change the terms of the debate. We shouldn’t be surprised, I guess: These people are trying to put a tax on breathing. Any other tactic is fair game once you’ve tried that.
The White House blog, taking its cues from the left wing blogosphere, trotted out the car insurance argument Monday afternoon, here:
This concept [of forcing Americans to buy something as the price of citizenship] is clearly seen in other areas of commerce. For example, in most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Accidents happen and when they do, they need to be paid for quickly and responsibly. Requiring drivers to carry auto insurance accomplishes this goal. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for.
And then today, out come attorney general Eric Holder and HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, with the same line in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Imagine what would happen if everyone waited to buy car insurance until after they got in an accident. Premiums would skyrocket, coverage would be unaffordable, and responsible drivers would be priced out of the market.
This, along with changing the label of the “individual mandate” to the softer “individual responsibility,” forms the backbone of the Obama admininstration’s new strategy to defend ObamaCare.
Holder and Sebelius open their piece with the usual liberal sob story, about someone who couldn’t get coverage until ObamaCare rode in to save the day:
In March, New Hampshire preschool teacher Gail O’Brien, who was unable to obtain health insurance through her employer, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. Her subsequent applications for health insurance were rejected because of her condition. With each round of chemotherapy costing $16,000, she delayed treatment because she knew her savings wouldn’t last.
Then President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to this law, O’Brien is getting treatment through a temporary program that provides affordable coverage to people who’ve been shut out of the insurance market because of a preexisting condition. Even better, she knows that in 2014 insurers will be banned from discriminating against her or any American with preexisting conditions.
Funny thing about all that. ObamaCare didn’t even contain state level high risk pools until the end stages of the debate, when according to Yuval Levin, the Democrats tacked them on to make the bill appear to be more effective before 2014. Another funny thing about that: Most states already have high risk pools. Texas has had its high risk pool in the law since 1989, and funded since 1997. State high risk pools are expensive and like everything else, imperfect, but they generally work. Texas didn’t need ObamaCare to tell us to create it. If anything, ObamaCare’s mandates threaten to bankrupt the states by saddling them with billions in unfunded mandates, which will presumably destroy state health care risk pools and other similar programs. ObamaCare isn’t the antidote, it’s the poison.
As to the argument that mandating health care is like mandating auto insurance, that argument doesn’t stand up to the facts. Changing the nomenclature to “individual responsibility” rather than “individual mandate” doesn’t help strengthen the argument. That the White House is doing both says that it has run out of strong legal arguments to buttress the law.
So one more time, let’s go through the various ways that ObamaCare is not like auto insurance. For one thing, auto insurance is pegged to risk, while ObamaCare is explicitly intended to remove the link to risk — that’s what ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions mandate does. If you’re a driver with a clean record, you pay less than a driver with a terrible record, and if you live in a high crime neighborhood, you pay more for your insurance than residents of lower crime neighborhoods. And at some point, a terrible driving record can make you uninsurable. Auto insurance is also not used to pay for services before they’re needed. Auto insurance pays for damage done, not routine maintenance. And driving itself is not a right, it’s an earned privilege licensed by the state, done mostly on roads owned and maintained by the state, giving the state a great deal of say in who gets to drive and what they must do in order to maintain their driving privileges. Auto insurance also is not tied to employment. That coupling of employment and health insurance is itself an unintended result of government intervention in the marketplace. ObamaCare just piles on more unwise intrusion into the private sector, rather than cleaning up the government’s previous mess.
Whereas auto insurance is tied to a privilege, ObamaCare is essentially a tax on your heartbeat. The state didn’t start your heartbeat, it doesn’t maintain your heartbeat, and it doesn’t license your heartbeat. But it does want to tax your heartbeat, and if you don’t comply it will send the IRS after you.
The auto insurance and health insurance markets are simply not analogous. No amount of sophistry will make it so.
ObamaCare’s individual mandate, now re-branded individual responsibility, is also a tax on citizenship in that it forces citizens (and lawful residents) into economic relationships that are not forced on those who are here illegally. In fact, to the extent that illegal aliens make up the “millions of uninsured” that we always hear about, and they make up a great deal of that number, ObamaCare’s mandate forces law-abiding Americans and residents to pay for the care of illegals who haven’t followed our basic laws of entry and also haven’t entered the health insurance market. Is that fair? We are already paying for that care via our local and state, and in some cases federal, taxes. ObamaCare’s mandate is a double hit, and one that could end up pricing American citizenship itself out of the market.
The White House’s defense of ObamaCare is weak and fundamentally dishonest. Their desired end state, as Obama himself admitted in more youthful moments, is single payer and the individual mandate is part of the path to get there (so was the so-called public option, which thankfully didn’t get past even a heavily Democrat congress). They couldn’t sell single payer or even the public option, so they sold ObamaCare and the individual mandate, and got a budget-busting, freedom-killing Frankenstein that most Americans oppose and that now a court has reasonably ruled is illegal.
Do we need reform? Absolutely. Is ObamaCare the reform that we need? Absolutely not. ObamaCare needs to be struck down or repealed, and replaced with market-based reforms that increase, rather than curb, our individual freedoms while strengthening, rather than swamping, state budgets.