Concerned citizens regularly ask if I would fight against Obamacare. The answer is, unequivocally, yes! Not because I am blind to helping those who cannot afford health care insurance or oblivious to the need for improving the quality of health care. But, Obamacare is simply the wrong vehicle for getting us where we need to be.
Obamacare is wrong in that it costs more than we can afford. Through 2019, we will spend $311 billion more on health care than if Obamacare had never passed and by 2014 the net cost of insurance will increase 14 percent compared to 3.5 percent without it.
Obamacare is wrong in mandating what should be a personal choice. Unlike driving, life is a right, not a privilege. In fact, life is an unalienable right that should not be diminished by government conditions.
Obamacare is wrong because its uncertain application, byzantine rules and penalties hurt small business, the lifeblood of the US economy.
It is wrong because it won’t deliver better health care. A majority of physicians anticipate a decline in access to, and quality of, health care. A shortage of doctors combined with more covered patients also portends poorer quality of care.
Beyond these pressing and practical economic issues, the Supreme Court’s upcoming review of Obamacare is as much a philosophical battle for the preservation of our federalist form of government.
The sobering reality is that the Supreme Court’s decision may haunt our nation for decades even if Obamacare is ultimately repealed. In that vein, the federalism implications may be even more important than Obamacare itself.
And what are the implications? Two vital questions must be answered to determine whether our notions of federalism will hew back to the original intent of concurrent powers envisioned by the constitutional framers or continue to degrade into a further dysfunctional and one-sided partnership resembling indentured servitude.
First, are there any true limits to federal regulation through the commerce clause? George Will states: “Congress does not have the power to regulate just anything that might affect interstate commerce, only commercial activity. Failure to buy a certain type of health insurance is not a commercial activity, or any kind of activity at all.”
Should the High Court uphold the individual mandate as a rightful exercise of the commerce clause, it would unacceptably push federal control over states and individuals to its furthest bounds to date and beg the question of where it will ever end.
Second, are states helplessly beholden to the coercive power of the federal government? Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Programs (MXPs) would add $120 billion (1.2 billion in Utah) in additional Medicaid costs to states struggling to pay for current coverage and further squeeze out state funding for vital needs like education.
Theoretically, states could withdraw from Medicaid and lose all federal funding but their citizens would still pay federal taxes to fund Medicaid elsewhere and remain alone in funding an alternative. As articulated by AAPS, “such a Hobson’s choice is no choice at all. ‘Regardless of the choice each State makes, that State’s spending will increase. . . MXP’s are an assault on the sovereignty of the States and the rights of their citizens.’”
If the Court rules MXPs are coercive, it would be a significant victory for federalism and begin to restore a balance of power between federal and state interests. If not, Washington will be without restraint in dictating to the states.
The stakes have never been higher.
Sean Reyes is a Republican candidate for Utah Attorney General. In 2008, he was recognized by the American Bar Association as the Most Outstanding Young Lawyer in the nation for his skill, leadership and public service. He was a partner at Parsons Behle & Latimer, where he spent fourteen years litigating some of the largest and most high-profile cases in the country and worked on multiple Supreme Court cases. He currently serves as General Counsel to eTAGZ, a media and technology company.