Big changes are coming to the runaway costs, crazy-high premiums, and loss of individual decision-making that attends America’s bloated, federally mandated Obamacare health program. Forget the tens of millions kicked off private insurance, those forced to forfeit chosen doctors, penalized by a quantum leap in premiums, empirically less coverage, and tax penalties. Change is afoot.
Two changes are worth noting. The first is a hands-down victory for average consumers. On top of President Trump’s push to lower prescription costs with a combination of increased oversight, transparency and cost reductions, a federal court last week ruled that the Trump Administration can go forward with a plan that returns choice to consumers.
The Trump Administration is about restoring choices or promoting individual liberty. Taken as a whole, the administration believes in reducing or limiting federal mandates, lowering taxes, rolling back regulations on individuals and small businesses, and less government intrusion. That applies in the health care sector.
Thus, they have championed – and last week won legal authority to offer – a return to the choice of your own health-care plan. If you do not want to have an expensive, high premium, government-run, buy-it-or-we-penalize-you, health plan, you can now choose a lower cost, smaller and more manageable plan. The federal government will not coerce you to buy what you do not need or want.
Radical idea, right? You get a choice over your own health care plan. Specifically, a Washington district court judge ruled that “short term” health plans, lower priced and offering less coverage – not necessarily including pre-existing conditions – can be purchased. The market is allowed. Choice is returned to the citizen, not taken by the government.
Predictably, in the era of Democratic presidential candidates pushing “Medicare for all” – or socialized medicine and Soviet-style “breadlines” for health care, paid for by make-believe money – we should not be surprised that Democrats are upset. They do not like this return of power to the people. But there it is. Yes, the federal ruling will be appealed, but odds are it sticks.
Now turn the page. Victory number two. In sum, the Obamacare plan was reviewed by the US Supreme Court, and you may recall the esteemed Justice John Roberts – the swing vote who upheld a sea-change in health care – sided with the liberal wing and called Obamacare constitutional.
In a nutshell, he did this by claiming it was within “taxing authority” of the federal government. Why? Because Obamacare had a provision that penalized people for not buying it, and Roberts conveniently deemed that a “tax.” Hanging the monstrosity on that single provision in the legislation, for which not a single Republican voted, he claimed it was constitutional.
Now comes a return to sanity, or common sense understanding of the law. In 2017, as part of the Trump-led and Republican-passed tax reduction package, a provision was included that stripped out the penalty provision from Obamacare. While good, that change also had major legal implications for constitutionality of the entire Obamacare law.
The provision on which Justice Roberts hung his vote – and on which Obamacare presumably depended – is now gone. For that reason, the bell is tolling for Obamacare. If it goes, Americans may be free again of the law’s many and onerous mandates. They may have a wider return to choice over their futures – and the future quality and cost of their health care.
Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – traditionally a constitutionally-strict circuit – heard legal arguments on the question of whether, without the taxing or penalizing provision, the entire Obamacare law can be still be viewed as constitutional. Arguments were strong that the law has lost the constitutional leg on which it balanced, and so should fall.
Keep your eyes on the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court now. If the Fifth Circuit follows the Supreme Court’s prior reasoning, and affirms on review or passes on accepting certiorari, the outcome will be important, even extraordinary: Americans will get their health care system back.
What then? First, the 20 million who got booted off their private insurance and forced into Obamacare, which then claimed them as “newly insured” – and all America – will have their free choice back. That will mean better care, lower premiums, and no more clumsy, ill-advised and unaccountable mandates.
Congress and the President will then have to act, legislatively or by executive power, to assure those in poverty or near the line, who might otherwise fall through the cracks, are not forgotten. Congress should adopt ideas offered during Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, allow networks of private individuals and businesses to pool bargaining power and negotiate with private insurers to lower rates, assuring or incentivizing coverage for preexisting conditions and catastrophic insurance coverage.
If all this sounds like a hopeful return to common sense – it is. Americans of every age and disposition, health condition and demographic, region and economic level would then breathe easier. Gaps would be filled, and options restored, with a sense of balance and connection to the individual.
We are all interested in good health, but the predicate for good health for each American – is preserving their choices. The Administration and thoughtful courts appear to be coming around to the idea – and not a moment too soon. So, in closing, here’s to your good health!