The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama, is the focus of a current Supreme Court case to be decided in June. Whether or not the law is upheld will depend on a variety of factors, not least among them the question of the individual mandate, and will be precedent setting whichever way the court swings. But let’s be clear about what exactly this behemoth of a law means for America. Far from providing “universal health care” – what all decent American’s hoped for – this law initiates an extreme acquisition of power by the federal government. It entirely re-frames the purpose of government from that institution which provides services to that which dictates market participation.
To those unacquainted with the PPACA (Obamacare), it is a law designed to enable affordable access to health insurance. How “affordable” is defined is unclear, though there will be a number of subsidies to better enable impoverished Americans to participate – however, if you do not participate, there are fines; you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The underlying logic of Obamacare is leveraging. The more people entering the health insurance market, the lower the costs. We are facing a situation where a private product, health insurance, is being forced upon individuals, with the onus on the citizen, not the government. The Obamacare mandate will take effect in 2014 if it is not struck down or repealed.
The now famous quip by Justice Scalia regarding broccoli is worth noting, seriously, because it brings up a valid point. Here’s the logic: The government claims that it is able to force people into the health insurance market because everyone, at some point, will need it. So what about healthy food? At some point each and every one of us will require food, and healthy food will reduce the burden unhealthy people have on society. Why can’t the government mandate that every one purchase broccoli? Another line of reasoning was presented by Justice Alito, and it measures up to the same thing. Everybody is going to need a burial service and someone is going to have to pay for it. Why not demand that everyone gets burial insurance?
Here is the fundamental problem, the reason why Obamacare should be opposed by conservatives and liberals alike, and why I, a self-described leftist, am shocked that it was ever signed into law. This is not universal health care; it is instead an admission that the purveyors of power are still the insurance companies – the United States spends more than $2 trillion on health care annually; it is a truly mammoth market. The problem is that Obamacare does not level the health insurance playing field; it rather accepts the stratification of American society and builds a system of health coverage based around it. It’s the health care equivalent of saying, “well, at some point everyone is going to need the police; if you don’t already have police on hand you have to pay for them yourself… or else.” Whoever is having their interests served by Obamacare, it certainly is not the people.
Instead of a system of government coercion, we need a health care law that is based on a system of taxation (ah, that damned “T” word) and is applied universally to the good of all Americans. Let’s leverage 300,000,000 citizens against the health insurance companies and let’s use our government to apply the pressure; if our government will not comply, let’s bring in new representatives who will. Obamacare further enforces classist America, further expands the power of government and its use of force against the people, and further underlines the corrosive relationship between government and private enterprise. Once Obamacare is overturned we can begin working on real change.
“…the Iron Heel was inconceivably careless.” – Jack London