Congressman Griffith’s Weekly E-Newsletter 07.2.12
Jul 2, 2012 -
ObamaCare: The Ruling and What It Means
On Thursday, June 28th, the Supreme Court issued its decision on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ObamaCare. The Court found that the requirement to own insurance is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. This is good news because it places a clear limit on Congress’ power under this provision of the Constitution. However, ObamaCare still stands. The Court found, despite repeated denials from President Obama, the drafters of the legislation, and against the language of the law itself, that the penalty for not owning insurance was actually a “tax.” Therefore, ObamaCare was found constitutional because Congress has the power to tax. This is disappointing.
Another question before the Court was whether the federal government could force state governments to expand their Medicaid programs to insure an additional 16-17 million people. If a state did not comply with the expansion, the federal government was going to withhold federal Medicaid funding. The Court found that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to do this, and expansion is therefore optional. If a state chooses to opt-out of the expansion under ObamaCare, it can retain essentially the same program it has today. The state will not receive new funding under ObamaCare, but it will not be penalized. The consequences of this portion of the ruling are still being reviewed, but it appears that it will help protect states against unfair coercion from the federal government.
So, the question remains, what does this all mean?
For the economy and businesses, the fiscal impact of this decision is still unclear. But, now that the Court has ruled that the penalty is a tax, I’m anxious to get the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) updated analysis on the economic impact of this law. Chuck Blahous, one of two Public Trustees for Social Security and Medicare (nominated by President Obama), has shown that after we look past the budget gimmicks and double counting, “over the years 2012–21, the ACA is expected to add at least $340 billion and as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing federal spending by more than $1.15 trillion over the same period and by increasing amounts thereafter.” Additionally, according to previous CBO data, roughly 75 percent of the penalties (ruled to be “taxes” by the Supreme Court) will fall on the middle class. Again, the full impact is not yet known, but I fear this will prove to be devastating to our recovering economy. [A list of the twenty new or increased taxes included in ObamaCare can be found here.]
For health care and the uninsured, our system has been greatly changed. At this point, the full impact of ObamaCare is uncertain. America needed real, commonsense reforms that were patient-centered, provided solutions to improve health care access, and cut costs. What Americans got with ObamaCare is a government-centered, one-size-fits-all, burden on their liberty and their pocket books. At a time when Congress is struggling to save Medicare and Social Security, this additional financial burden – placed on the backs of our children and grandchildren – is a mistake. Seeing as many governors are struggling to get their own state budgets in order, I would not be surprised to see a number of states opt-out of the Medicaid expansion program. If that occurs, what happens to the roughly 16-17 million uninsured who were supposed to be covered by the expanded Medicaid programs? I believe we will see a number of people get pushed to the newly created exchanges, which are subsidized by federal taxpayers. If that occurs, the cost of this bill could rise rapidly. Many residents of the Ninth District are already telling me their premiums are going up. I believe we will see them continue to rise even before all the new taxes on health insurers, medical device manufacturers, and the like are implemented. [To get a better idea of what our new health care system looks like, please refer to this chart.]
For seniors, this law is likely to limit their health care options. In addition to the billions in cuts to Medicare, I am deeply troubled by the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats who would have the authority to cut Medicare and determine what treatments seniors can receive. IPAB has a mandate to reduce Medicare costs above a certain threshold. IPAB has broad authority to cut costs, including curbing fraud or cutting reimbursements to doctors and hospitals. If IPAB cuts payments to doctors and hospitals, some doctors and hospitals will quit seeing new Medicare patients, which in turn will limit or ration seniors’ health care choices. While the bill explicitly forbids IPAB from rationing care to cut Medicare costs, the result of slashing reimbursements for services provided by doctors would by definition limit the options seniors have.
Given this bill’s burden on our economy, its unacceptable government coercion, and the likely limitations it places on treatment for seniors, I will continue to advocate for full repeal of this law. On July 11th, the House of Representatives will again give the Senate the opportunity to side with the American people in opposing ObamaCare. Let’s hope they agree with the House and repeal these taxes. The rule of law and our Republic have suffered a serious blow, but our spirit is not crushed and “we the people” will prevail.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my offices. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.