Posts Tagged ‘health care insurance’

No “Fixes” for Obamacare

We have been told numerous times that the ACA, “Obamacare,” is the law of the land. Some of the law’s supporters have even called it the “settled” law of the land to emphasize the idea that it may not be changed.

Of course, even while these claims were being put forth in the media, our President was already diddling around with it, delaying the employer mandate feature of the law. This he did on top of other exemptions he had granted to one favored party or another.

Even some Democrats who strongly support it, or at least had supported it, are now urging that it be delayed. They have been stung by the ineptitude of the program’s introduction to the real world. Senators who supported the law and are up for reelection in 2014 are worried that their support may get them voted out of office.

Now we are hearing various suggestions for how to “fix” the law, and a cadre of computer programmers have been set to the task of correcting the code that is supposed to make it run smoothly. This process may not trouble some legislators who are always asking approval to “revise and extend” their remarks. But it disturbs me and should concern us all. These code writers could insert changes to the law either inadvertently or on purpose. Their craft is arcane enough that the ordinary citizen or congressional committee would be unable to monitor, let alone stop, any such changes. Indeed it might be tempting to “simplify” the law rather than create the code to make it run as originally conceived. To do so would be legislating by computer code, something that would be unconstitutional and start us down a slippery slope that could plague us for years.

The way to avoid it altogether is to repeal the law legislatively and start over again.

Dwight Boud

Fine or Tax?

Wait a minute. I’m confused. When the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was challenged in the Supreme Court, the challenge was based on the assertion that it unconstitutionally required citizens to buy a product (healthcare insurance) that they might not wish to buy. If they chose not to buy, they would be coerced into buying the product by the threat of a fine. Chief Justice John Roberts allowed that the law was within constitutional bounds because the “fines” were really “taxes” and the federal government has the power to levy taxes. Case closed.

Yesterday on TV I heard two spokespeople from opposite sides of the Healthcare controversy use terminology that underlined the original complaint. Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, referred to the money to be collected by the IRS from those who don’t buy insurance as a “tax.” It sounded to me like a dutiful adherence to the Supreme Court’s definition. The IRS would be collecting taxes, nothing new here.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on the other hand, claimed that citizens were not forced to buy healthcare insurance because they had other options. They could choose instead to have money withdrawn from their accounts by the IRS. When describing the withdrawals, she called them “fines.”

Well now, which is it? It seems to me untenable to use the terms “tax” and “fine” interchangeably. Furthermore, shouldn’t the Republican (Cantor) be expected to use the word “fines?” And shouldn’t we expect the Democrat (Sebelius) to bolster the Supreme Court decision by using the word “tax?”

If they can’t get it straight, shouldn’t we take more time to sort it out. I believe a year’s delay in implementation of the law would allow all those affected to know everything that’s in it. We should delay it so we can find out what’s in it “away from the fog of controversy” to borrow a phrase from Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, no matter what we call it, it’s money forcibly taken out of the pockets of people who, for their own reasons, don’t want to buy healthcare insurance. It’s coercive. If you entered a market, looked over their wares, and decided they didn’t carry anything that you wanted, would you expect to have to pay a fee on your way out the door? That’s Obamacare.

Coercion breeds resentment.
Resentment breeds resistance.
Resistance breeds rebellion.
If you would avoid rebellion,
Avoid coercion.

Dwight Boud ©2013

No “Amending” Obamacare Law

There is deep public concern over the “Obama Agenda.” The President has authoritarian tendencies that lead, for example, to his governing by executive order. It is natural, when faced with an executive administration bent on controlling virtually every aspect of our lives, to express concerns about what it is trying to accomplish. Just as when we watch a magician at work, though, we are so distracted by what he does (pull a rabbit out of an empty hat, for example) that we seldom have time to consider the inevitable question: “How did he do that?”

Sometimes How the President does something is more important in the long run than What he has done. A case in point is present in the treatment of the “Affordable Care Act”and the recent decision to postpone the activation of the large-business mandate to provide health insurance to employees. The What that has been done is the postponing of a key provision of the Obamacare law for a year, i.e. until after the mid-term election. More important than the one year postponement is the manner in which it is being done.

“Obamacare” was “passed” (or deemed passed) by a one party vote of Congress. It was pushed through quickly as though in response to a health insurance “crisis.” The act was so long and complex that it’s unlikely that any member of congress had time to read or analyze it. But once passed and signed by the President, it became “the law of the land,” (How many times have we been reminded of that?) and that’s where it gets very interesting.

French King Louis XIV claimed “L’etat c’est moi,” — I am the State. Sometimes Barack Obama acts as if he believes that he is the state. But in the USA, the State is more than the President, more that the whole government. It is the people. Hence, when an act becomes the law of the land, it ceases to be a bill introduced to the legislature by a member and its sponsors. Until passage, it is subject to amendment. But once it becomes a law, “the law of the land,” it is our law. It’s no longer subject to amendment. The legislators who wrote the bill and submitted it for consideration, any who voted for or against it, any President who signed it have all lost control of it. Like it or not, it belongs to the people.

Laws can be challenged in courts. Contradictory bills can be presented in
Congress. But the President, who presumably knew what the bill said before he signed it, does not (or should not) have the power to simply change his mind about it and unilaterally amend a law after the fact. To get back to the magician analogy, the postponement is the WHAT he has done. The single-handed alteration of what the law says in black and white is the HOW. The how, if allowed to stand, sets a terrible precedent. It becomes a de facto line-item-veto for Presidents henceforward. It would allow a President to simply discard any section of a law that he/she does not support. It sets the stage for government of men and not of laws, a system that prevails in way too many dictatorships around the world.

Or so it seems from here…

Accommodation, Not a Compromise

In the fast-paced, rough and tumble of politics, it’s easy to overlook subtle variations in wording. Often we’re told that “the Devil is in the details.” Sometimes among the details are politicians’ word choices. Thus when President Obama announced an adjustment in his position on the requirement that Catholic Institutions include abortion, sterilization, and birth control in insurance policies they provide their employees, he chose to call the shift an “accommodation” rather than a “compromise.”

Strictly speaking, he was right. A compromise is an agreement reached by two parties who both participate in negotiations and who both have power. The Catholic Church protested the “health care” requirement, but had no part in any negotiations to reach a compromise. Rather the President modified his stance and shifted the cost of birth control insurance away from the Church itself and onto companies who provide their employees’ insurance. The importance of calling this an “accommodation” is that it preserves all the power for the government. There were no discussions, no give and take, only a unilateral, political decision by the Obama Administration.

This might seem like small potatoes, but it reveals the mind-set of the “progressives” who are now running the show. Their accommodation to a protest is “noblesse oblige.” In other words, we have the power and we will make the decisions. As for the Catholic Church, they have been told to accept a plan that forces their insurance companies to pay for procedures that the Church itself finds morally unacceptable. It is like suggesting that a person who hires a hit man to commit a murder is him/herself without guilt.

There’s much more to this issue than Obama’s choice of words. There is, of course, the point that, under the First Amendment to the Constitution, no one (not just Catholics) can be forced to abandon his or her religious beliefs. So there’s more to come, but by choosing to call his change of position an accommodation, Obama reveals an imperial take-it or leave-it attitude.

Dwight Boud