Column - Mandate is wrong, but health care bill should stay
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 06:06
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide Thursday whether the mandate which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance is constitutional.
President Barack Obama has been under fire since the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as "Obamacare."
Proponents of the bill say it widens the scope of coverage for many Americans and supplies health insurance to millions of people who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
Those against the historic legislation claim it allows the federal government to gain too much power, and the federal government should not be able to determine what goods or services Americans must pay for.
While most agree the United States needs health care reform, the method to achieve it stirs much controversy.
In truth, it isn’t right for the government to be able to mandate coverage for anyone, but that is not what really bothers Republicans and those in the health industry.
The health industry simply doesn’t want competition.
Americans overpay for health services – this fact is accepted by most. If you go to the doctor for some minor pains, most likely he or she will give your some over-the-counter pain relievers which at the drug store may cost a few dollars, but at the doctor’s office will cost quadruple that amount.
It’s highway robbery.
Most critics of Obamacare are quick to attack the president because of the mandate. While it was his administration that drafted the bill, the mandate was not his purpose.
According to a PBS Frontline report, Obama campaigned against the mandate, but it was the health industry’s heavy influence on Washington that destined the mandate for the president’s desk.
Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Finance Max Baucus should be at the forefront of the blame for the ragged deal. He dealt with the lobbyists behind closed doors and bowed to their demands.
Baucus even received $2,551,930 in campaign contributions from special interest groups in the health industry prior to his dealing with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
I can’t agree with the outcome of the bill, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
If the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the rest of the bill should be reworked and not thrown in the trash like every other effort to improve the health industry.
During the ’90s, former President Bill Clinton attempted to push a universal health care bill that was championed by his wife, Hilary Clinton. The bill, which exceeded 1,000 pages, was turned down without any consideration from the other side. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a U.S. senator from New York and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, was reported saying "I’m not even going to read it" when Clinton’s bill arrived at his desk.
Many believe Clinton’s failings were a result of him not playing the political game correctly – a game every politician must play to pass any legislation.
Obama’s strategy was to get support from all sides of the debate, which has turned out to be a double-edged sword for his agenda.
On one hand, he did get the legislation to pass and in turn has promised many great things to the American public including coverage for preexisting conditions and no limit on coverage from insurance companies, to name a few.
On the other hand, his negotiations with special interest groups allowed the legislation to be damaged and feature aspects that are designed to keep the health industry’s wallet fat and do little for the American people, such as the mandate.
Early in Obama’s presidency Karen Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, promised to work with his administration and design a plan that would work.
In due time, Obama realized she was playing hard ball and would not allow the plan to be drafted without a mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance. Ignagni also refused to accept a government option, which would give Americans more choices when purchasing a health plan.
I can’t blame Obama for going along with the bill, even though it was not what he wanted, nor was it exactly what the people wanted.
If he had refused to negotiate, his plan would have had the same fate of Clinton’s health plan, which was doomed from the start.
The problems plaguing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exist because the health industry doesn’t want the bill to succeed. If it does, they will be forced to reduce prices to compete with the government competition.
The mandate will probably (and should) be found constitutional. If it is not, mandates on car insurance should be repealed, as well. While driving a car is a "privilege," the government’s mandate for every driver to be insured has the same logic. If you drive (or live) you will eventually be in an accident and must go to the shop (or hospital).
Some argue "if you go to the doctor, with or without insurance coverage, you are a part of the health care system and should have to pay insurance premiums. If everyone pays, then everyone should have a cheaper premium."
If the mandate is unconstitutional, urge your representative to continue the fight for health care reform. There is no reason for a nation as wealthy as ours (although we are in rough economic times, we are still a wealthy nation) not to provide affordable health care for its citizens.