By Tom Fitton
A decision by a federal court in Florida sent shock waves through the Obama administration on Monday. Judge Roger Vinson ruled the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly known, unconstitutional, in a consolidated lawsuit that involved 26 states challenging the law.
Judge Vinson did not mince words in his summary judgment:
“It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Sure this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.”
If the government can force you to buy health insurance, Judge Vinson reasoned, it can also force American taxpayers to decide “whether and when (or not) to buy a house, a car, a television, a dinner or even a morning cup of coffee.” Vinson did not think the Constitution allowed the federal government that type of unbridled power.
I encourage you to read Judge Vinson’s ruling in its entirety, as it is an excellent way to learn more about the U.S. Constitution’s limits on the federal government. You can find a link to the 78-page decision here.
What to do next? The law will continue to be vetted by the courts, and likely the Supreme Court. Given Obamacare’s constitutional uncertainty (Judge Vinson threw the whole mess out), it seems useful to offer a practical solution for those of us who oppose this socialist government overreach. To that end, please find below my op-ed which ran this week in The Washington Examiner. The piece is entitled “A Moratorium Needed for Obamacare until its Constitutionality is Decided,” which I have reprinted in full for you below:
President Obama’s signature legislative “achievement” plunged deeper into legal limbo Monday with a decision by a Florida federal judge ruling the entire law unconstitutional. This follows the Dec. 13 Virginia court invalidation of the central component of the president’s health care reform law requiring individuals to buy health insurance.
Both decisions hinged upon the constitutionality of the individual mandate. This individual mandate “exceeds the boundaries of congressional power” and would “invite unbridled federal police powers,” U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote in his 42-page December opinion.
How important is this mandate to Obama’s health care reform law, or Obamacare, as it is widely known?
“Without an individual responsibility provision (or mandate), controlling costs and ending discrimination against people with preexisting conditions doesn’t work,” wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an editorial published in the Washington Post the day after Judge Hudson’s decision.
Indeed, the Florida court Monday found that the whole of the Obamacare law is void as a result of its individual mandate being unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson wrote, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act (Obamacare) must be declared void.”
In addition to Virginia, 25 other states have sued to strike down the law in a consolidated case now before a federal court in Florida. Virtually everyone agrees the constitutional challenges are destined for the U.S. Supreme Court a year or two from now.
Congress cannot afford to wait until then. It must impose an immediate moratorium on Obamacare now, until the weighty constitutional concerns at issue are resolved in the courts.
As it stands, many of the supposed “benefits” of Obamacare’s individual mandate and other provisions won’t be realized until 2014. And yet, as the law winds its way through the lower courts, American health care consumers and taxpayers are already experiencing significant financial pains through skyrocketing premiums and phased-in taxes that began this year and will cost $502 billion over the next 10 years.
In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that health insurers have been forced to raise premiums “as a direct result of the health overhaul.”
Of course it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Obamacare was going to reduce premiums, not raise them. That’s what the president pitched to insurance providers, who were highly concerned about the fallout of higher premiums on their customer base.
“We [Senate Democrats and the administration] agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care. Families will save on their premiums.”
The principle justification for the president’s claim regarding shrinking premiums depended upon an expanded insurance market that would result from the individual mandate. Instead, the law has had the exact opposite effect on premiums, with devastating consequences.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued hundreds of waivers to companies so they could be saved from the Obamacare legislative “fix.” Now, we’re told that an astonishing 733 companies and politically connected unions at last count threatened to drop their health care coverage for employees altogether if they did not receive a reprieve from the law.
Obama’s claims about his health reform law were bold. The law would fix all of our health care woes, he promised, efficiently and cost-effectively. But the law has only roiled the health insurance market and lent uncertainty to many Americans’ health care.
Congress should declare a moratorium on the health care reform law until the courts can settle the issue of its linchpin — the individual mandate. Even supporters of Obamacare, perhaps even Obama himself, might concede that the law won’t work as intended until the courts settle the core constitutional issues.
What harm would there be in placing Obamacare on hold?
Certainly no American should be paying the higher prices for a health care plan now that could very easily, in the end, disappear with a strike of a judge’s gavel.
While we do not know the ultimate fate of Obamacare in the courts, as we saw on Monday, the future of the law is very much in doubt. If, in the meantime, you think an Obamacare moratorium is warranted, feel free to push the idea in letters to your local newspaper, with your personal networks, and especially with your elected representatives.