What’s Needed to Fight Obamacare

As the Supreme Court heard arguments last week about the constitutionality of Obamacare’s
contraception mandate, a lower court considered another aspect of Obamacare: whether the law is actually being implemented as it was written.

In USA Today, Michael Cannon, Cato’s director of health policy studies, explains the issue at stake in Halbig v. Sebelius:

Obamacare authorizes the IRS to provide health-insurance subsidies (nominally, tax credits) to consumers who purchase health insurance “through an Exchange established by the State.” That’s not a drafting error. The subsidy-eligibility rules employ that language a total of nine times, without deviation. The rest of the statute is fully compatible with this language.

The statute is therefore clear and unambiguous: the IRS may issue subsidies in the 14 states that established an exchange, but not in the 34 states that left the job of establishing and operating their state’s exchange to the federal government. Congress’ purpose is likewise clear. It wanted states to operate the exchanges, so it conditioned subsidies on state cooperation. Medicaid and countless other federal programs do the same.

The IRS’s philosopher-kings have decided to issue subsidies in those 34 states anyway.

Read Cannon’s extensive commentary about this case on his Forbes.com column.

My take: Upholding the rule of law is critical if we are to limit government to its
proper role: protecting individual rights. So I’m sympathetic to this lawsuit and Cannon’s position.

But to successfully fight Obamacare, much more must be done than to scrutinize how the law is being implemented. Ultimately we must challenge Obamacare’s basic purpose.

Obamacare is the latest attempt in a century-long effort to create a health care system in America in which you don’t have to earn the funds required to purchase medical care; the government simply appropriates those funds from others on your behalf. (I recently
detailed some of the major regulations in health insurance prior to Obamacare that sought this outcome.)

As long as this goal — which ultimately requires socialized medicine — is viewed as fundamentally good, how we accomplish it will be seen as a mere detail. And details — like the fact that in some states the appropriation is being administered by a different level of government than what the Obamacare statute specifies — can be fixed.

To overturn Obamacare (and stave off any alternative which seeks to achieve the same goals), ultimately what needs to be
challenged is the notion that health care is a right that government must force some people to provide to others.