Obamacare may face another hurdle: voters

The already interesting 2012 November elections just got more so with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week upholding the individual mandate portion of President Obama’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act.

The question now is how the American public will respond.

The 5-4 decision on Thursday sparked shock on the part of both proponents and opponents of Obamacare, and an inevitable outcry from those who were against the plan and expected the Court to find it unconstitutional.

What has outraged many is the Court majority’s conclusion, in NFIB v. Sebelius, that the “individual mandate,” which even many proponents of Obamacare believed would not withstand the Court’s review of constitutionality, survived because the justices declared that the federal government has power to fine Americans who don’t acquire insurance from a private insurance company because the fine is essentially a tax.

Some on the right have likened it to the decision in Kelo v. City of New London (2004), in which the Supreme Court held that a government may use eminent domain to seize private property for the benefit of another private property owner. In this case, Obamacare forces individuals to buy insurance from a private company, ostensibly for the greater public good.

Starting in 2014, nearly everyone will be required to be insured or pay a fine. There are subsidies to help people who can’t afford coverage and Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low-income people.

Many employers will face fines if they don’t offer coverage for their workers. It’s likely that newly created insurance markets will make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy affordable coverage

As we noted on this page earlier this year, the implementation of Obamacare could provide an immediate improvement in quality of living for some – particularly small business owners who are being squeezed by skyrocketing health insurance costs and people with no health insurance at all.

Insurance premiums are likely to continue to escalate, though, and the tax credits that some business owners may qualify for – which news reports suggest many don’t even know exist – will offer limited relief.

Certainly, medical care delivered through an inefficient and financially flawed mechanism (see Social Security, Medicare), is preferable to the recipients than none.

Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg says that an estimated 180,000 to 200,000 more people will qualify for the Oregon Health Plan in 2014 and “hundreds of thousands more people will have access to the health insurance exchange.”

The problem is that already-struggling businesses and individuals, the ones who are putting in long hours to finance programs to support those who aren’t able or willing to work, will ultimately have to bear the burden of this program too.

Even though a portion of the population will benefit, someone has to pay to make that happen and although it would be great to see it all work out, it won’t – any more than if an adult child were to continue to use a parent’s credit card to buy cars and roll up debts, and expect Mom or Dad to pay the bill. Eventually, Dad or Mom would either balk or run out of money.

The biggest problem, though, is that government control of our lives has been intensified by this ruling giving bureaucrats and legislators more power to impose their will, well-intentioned though it may be, on the citizenry. It is the citizenry who must pay the piper.

The only way to stop Obamacare now, for those who think it’s a bad idea, is to vote out legislators who passed this ill-conceived scheme in the first place and elect representatives and senators who will repeal it. That’s why the November election suddenly becomes far more significant.

What will the people say?