Tag Archives: ObamaCare

SCOTUS Saves ObamaCare — and the GOP’s 2016 Prospects

English: Depiction of the Senate vote on H.R. ...
Depiction of the Senate vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on December 24, 2009, by state. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The US Supreme Court handed down its ruling in King v. Burwell on Thursday (June 25), putting to rest the question of whether or not certain subsidies created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) would remain available.

The Court ruled against the clear language and intent of the law. In so doing, it greatly improved the Republican Party’s slim chances of maintaining its Senate majority, and possibly even winning the White House, in 2016.

Yes, really. Here’s why:

The first thing to understand is that the subsidies language in the ACA was a standard “spoils” move, made with an eye toward helping Democrats win elections.

In states which established insurance exchanges under the law (in other words, states run by Democrats), low-income voters would receive federal subsidies to purchase health coverage. In states which didn’t do so (in other words, states run by Republicans), they wouldn’t. This would shore up support for the Democrats in their own states. If it hurt them at all, it would only hurt them in states that were already Republican anyway. And maybe not even there (Republicans would get some blame for denying the subsidies to their constituents).

Crass vote-buying? Yes. The executive branch took the edge off any potential red-state damage to Democrats by going ahead and delivering the subsidies even though the law didn’t allow them, knowing that Republicans would complain and make themselves the bad guys in the eyes of low-income voters in their own states. Which they promptly proceeded to do.

At the Supreme Court level, the Democrats won coming and going. A ruling against the subsidies would be blamed on the Republicans; a ruling for the subsidies was an affirmation for a Democratic president.

The second thing to understand is that the Republicans don’t make political hay on ObamaCare by actually repealing it or even significantly damaging it, but by COMPLAINING about it. They dodged a bullet with King v. Burwell. The court’s ruling allows them to keep complaining about it for political benefit in 2016, instead of facing down mobs of pitchfork-carrying, formerly Republican low-income voters in their own states who lost subsidies.

The third and final thing to understand is that the Republicans will never repeal the ACA. Heck, it was their idea in the first place! Republican president Richard Nixon suggested its core principal, the “individual mandate,” in 1973. A Republican congressman (Newt Gingrich) and a Republican think tank (the Heritage Foundation) suggested it again in 1993. Republican governor Mitt Romney implemented it in Massachusetts in 2007.

The only thing Republican politicians don’t like about ObamaCare is that it has a Democrat’s name on it. Which makes sense, since it’s a giant corporate welfare program of the kind politicians of both major parties love, thinly and unconvincingly disguised as “health care reform.”

It is, in other words, the practical application of HL Mencken’s dictum: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.





An Explanation: What the Supreme Court Will Not Do to ObamaCare

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The US Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in King v. Burwell soon. At issue in the case is whether or not the Affordable Care Act, better known as “ObamaCare,” entitles people in states which have not established their own “exchanges” to federally subsidized health coverage.

Writing for the Associated Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar worries that the court’s ruling “could wipe out health insurance for millions of people.”

Let me lay that fear to rest. No such outcome is possible, for the simple reason that the health plans addressed by ObamaCare are not insurance.

In fact, one effect of ObamaCare, as explained by Warren C. Gibson at the Foundation for Economic Education, was to outlaw health insurance entirely.

Insurance is a “hedged” bet. When you buy insurance — on your car, your home, your life or your health — you place a small bet (your monthly premium) that something really bad (a wreck, a fire, death or sickness) will happen. The insurance company places a large bet (the prospective payout on a claim) that no, that really bad thing will not happen.

You don’t want to win that bet. You pay $50 a month for car insurance so that IF you win your bet by having a wreck, you’re off the hook for a lot more than $50. The insurance company makes its money by carefully setting the odds such that it takes in more in small wins than it pays out in big losses.

ObamaCare is not a hedged bet against catastrophe. It’s a national system of mandatory pre-paid health care. You make a monthly payment in return for which you expect your every health need to be provided for.

We’ve been moving away from real insurance and toward pre-paid care since the early 1970s with Health Maintenance Organizations and Preferred Provider Organizations. ObamaCare brought three important new elements in:

First, you no longer have a choice. You have to subscribe to a pre-paid health service whether you want to or not. “Insurance” companies love that part. ObamaCare is a gigantic corporate welfare program.

Second, if you are a low-income American and your state has an exchange, you get a government subsidy to help cover your subscription payment (the Supreme Court is set to decide whether or not this also applies to federal exchanges in states that didn’t set up their own). The “insurance” companies love that, too (more money for them!).

Third, the “insurance” companies can’t turn anyone down. With real insurance, a pre-existing condition would be the equivalent of betting at blackjack after seeing the dealer’s hand. They don’t like that part nearly as much. It raises their costs. Which, in turn, raises yours.

If the Court rules against the Obama administration in King v. Burwell, millions of Americans will stop receiving health care subsidies. But not a single American will lose “insurance,” because that’s not what we’re getting in the first place.

What are we getting? Two things: Screwed and robbed.  Or: Government as usual.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.



ObamaCare: Of Hypocrites and Heroes

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What do you call someone who opposes the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, standing instead for free markets, private charity and personal responsibility in healthcare?

What do you call that person when, in a tough situation, he acts in accord with his beliefs, relying on private charity to help him pay the bills associated with an expensive health emergency?

I can think of a lot of names for someone like that. “Hypocrite” is not among them. Some ObamaCare supporters seem a little mixed up on the subject.

Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona and founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, opposes ObamaCare and declined to sign up for subsidized health insurance under its provisions.

When he suffered a heart attack in January, his family set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his care. As I write this, the campaign has nearly met its $30,000 goal. By the time you read this, it will probably have surpassed that goal.

Donors to the fundraiser have the option of commenting, and a funny thing happened on the way to the goal: Lots of people made small donations for the sole purpose of publicly chiding “Sheriff Mack” (as his friends and fans still call him though he’s no longer in office) for his opposition to ObamaCare.

The remarks range from “agree to disagree, but I’m happy to help you” at one end to strident and, in some cases, nasty at the other. “Hypocrite” seems to be among his detractors’ favored terms.

But hypocrisy involves “insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have.” And in this, as in so many other instances, Sheriff Mack is the exact opposite of a hypocrite.

Sheriff Mack believes that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. He also thinks it’s a very bad idea. Many Americans agree with him on both counts.

He declined to accept subsidized insurance under the ACA, and when he found himself in a catastrophic health situation he asked for assistance.

Not from the government. Not at the expense of unwilling taxpayers. Only from those who were willing to voluntarily help him. Just as he advocated for before he was the one who needed that assistance.

Sheriff Mack is well-known to libertarians for his previous stands against gun control and other violations of Americans’ rights by the federal government. In fact, he once ran for Congress on the Libertarian Party’s ballot line. Not all libertarians agree with him on every issue, but most of us respect him for his principled actions even when we disagree.

He practices what he preaches. Every time. No exceptions.

He’s not a hypocrite. He’s a hero.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.