A Very Bad Week for ObamaCare

ObamaCare continues to take on water, starting last Monday with Federal Judge Henry Hudson’s ruling that the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. But that was just the beginning:

  • Federal Judge Roger Vinson was skeptical about the mandate during a hearing on Thursday in Florida on the 20-state/NFIB challenge. Judge Vinson said he paid cash for the delivery of one of his children when he was uninsured, and is unconvinced of the need for the federal government to require everyone to purchase health insurance — or to eat broccoli, for that matter. A ruling is expected next month.

  • Support for ObamaCare fell to its lowest level ever in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, showing only 43% supporting the law and 52% opposing it. Rassmussen Reports shows support for repeal is up to 60%, nearly identical to the Post poll showing 59% want either all or parts of the law repealed.

  • When the Omnibus spending bill went down in the Senate last night, it took with it $1 billion in spending to help fund implementation of ObamaCare. Good luck getting a penny of that through the incoming House.

  • Incoming governors met with President Obama on Thursday, and South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley told him there was just no way her state could afford the Medicaid expansion mandated by ObamaCare. The president didn’t budge in insisting states must comply, but she reported he did indicate a willingness to consider flexibility in state implementation of other parts of the law. Good luck in convincing the reg-writers to go easy.

Massachusetts mess: And we are always keeping an eye on the canary in the coal mine in Massachusetts, where there is also more bad news about its health overhaul. The Bay State is facing soaring health costs and huge Medicaid spending that are crippling the Commonwealth’s budget:

  • A new report shows that three-quarters of those who are newly insured as a result of RomneyCare are getting taxpayer-subsidized coverage through Medicaid and the exchange.

    The report says “Medicaid is gobbling up more and more of the state budget, a trend that has been going on for many years…The trends point toward an entitlement program with runaway costs that’s devouring new state revenues and leaving other services in areas like public safety, human services, education and local aid, subject to continuing budget cuts amid a sluggish economic recovery and dried up federal revenue sources.”

  • A separate report shows that hundreds of millions of dollars that were supposed to go to improving public schools in Massachusetts have instead gone to paying for expensive health insurance for teachers.

    “Largely because of health care costs, school districts have been forced to make painful spending cuts, in books, teachers, and teacher training,” the report said. “These cost increases are huge, and they’re affecting kids.”

    The rise in health insurance premiums has “completely consumed the increased appropriations for education and then some,” according to the report.

Health spending can turn into a voracious monster. At the federal level, defense spending will certainly face the same fate that education spending is facing in Massachusetts.

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Back to the courts: Supporters of ObamaCare are trying to pretend that Judge Hudson’s ruling on Monday against the individual mandate is no big deal because he didn’t block implementation and didn’t invalidate the rest of the law. But the administration clearly is worried and defenders are scrambling to find a way to make their government take-over of health care work without the individual mandate.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a commentary in The Washington Post the day after the decision and based their defense of the mandate largely on emotion, not solid legal arguments:

“In March, New Hampshire preschool teacher Gail O’Brien, who was unable to obtain health insurance through her employer, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma,” they wrote. “Her subsequent applications for health insurance were rejected because of her condition. With each round of chemotherapy costing $16,000, she delayed treatment because she knew her savings wouldn’t last.”

If you wait to buy health insurance after you are diagnosed with cancer, it is going to be hard to get coverage.

They even make that same point later in their op-ed! “Imagine what would happen if everyone waited to buy car insurance until after they got in an accident,” Holder and Sebelius wrote. “Premiums would skyrocket, coverage would be unaffordable, and responsible drivers would be priced out of the market.”

What we need instead are incentives and support for people to buy coverage when they are well and maintain that coverage over time, whether they get insurance through their employer or not. And we need to do it without ObamaCare’s crushing and expensive regulations.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a Washington Post commentary on Thursday said that Holder and Sebelius “focused on a policy argument, not a legal one.”

“The Supreme Court explained in June in its ruling in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board that, while every generation perceives that it faces urgent problems, permitting policy desires to trump the Constitution would usher in far greater evils than those the government is seeking to cure. No one, including me, is against affordable health care. But the Virginia lawsuit is not just about health care. It is about protecting our liberty,” Cuccinelli wrote.

Back to Massachusetts: Holder and Sebelius argue that you need the individual mandate for ObamaCare to work in controlling costs. How is that working out in Massachusetts?

The evidence is that costs are higher than ever. A team of reporters for State House News Service dug deep to get information that the state government hasn’t released about how RomneyCare is actually working out.

They found that “75 percent of the estimated 410,000 individuals newly insured in Massachusetts since passage of the 2006 health reform law under Gov. Mitt Romney have found coverage through publicly subsidized programs, including the expanded Medicaid or MassHealth system,” according to a state report released on Friday.

Massachusetts “still faces a significant budget gap largely because of soaring costs in the state Medicaid program,” the report says.

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Highlighted readings:

  • Doug Holtz-Eakin and Jim Capretta wrote this week in Politico that “enrollment in federally subsidized insurance in the exchanges would likely far exceed the 19 million people that the CBO has estimated. Indeed, the safe assumption is that an additional 35 million workers and their families with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line?could end up there over time, one way or another. And when they do, costs will soar,” costing nearly $1 trillion more than originally projected. “Congress should insist, when the new budget projections are issued next year, that they be based on a more realistic outlook for Obamacare’s costs.”

  • Diana Furchtgott-Roth explained in a commentary in The Washington Examiner that ObamaCare already is drying up jobs for lower-skill workers.

  • Joe Antos writes about the waivers that have been granted to several hundred firms to escape some of ObamaCare’s rules. But he says other firms undoubtedly meriting similar waivers will not get them, and their workers will suffer. This is the Cornhusker Kickback, redux.

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Year-end news: I’m going to be spending the rest of the year working on a book project that will be coming soon to a bookstore near you. Stay tuned for more information.

We have A LOT of work to do next year to put the brakes on ObamaCare and its assault on our health sector. The Galen Institute relies solely on contributions from people like you who believe in our work. We welcome your contribution online or by mail to P.O. Box 320010, Alexandria, VA 22320.

And thanks to those of you who have so generously donated this year. We are most grateful for your support and for the countless encouraging messages you send all year long.

All best wishes to you for a blessed Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

— The Galen team

 

CLIP OF THE WEEK

Grace-Marie Turner on the impact of the health overhaul law on businesses and existing health insurance plans

In this video from our November 30 health reform forum, Grace-Marie discusses the impact of the health law on businesses and on existing health insurance plans. More videos from the forum are available online here.
Watch now >>

 

GALEN IN THE NEWS

Confronting ObamaCare: GOP needs to battle the bill on many fronts

Grace-Marie Turner
The Washington Times, 12/17/10

The battle against ObamaCare will take place on four fronts over the next two years: political, legislative, legal, and regulatory. Legislative actions will begin with the full repeal vote and continue with targeted votes to defund, delay, dismantle, and do direct oversight and investigation, especially into the avalanche of regulations being issued every day. The political front will involve continuing educational efforts by outside groups and political candidates to help the American people understand more about the details of the health overhaul law and its damaging impact on the health sector and the economy, especially jobs creation and health costs. Legal challenges will likely grow. Expect Congress to take a number of actions by conducting careful review of the avalanche of regulations being issued, demanding information from key government officials about their implementation strategies, and reviewing spending by federal officials in implementing the law.
Read More »

ObamaCare Is Unconstitutional

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 12/13/10

In its first serious court test, the most unpopular provision in ObamaCare — the individual mandate — has been declared unconstitutional. Federal Judge Henry Hudson declared that the mandate to purchase health insurance represents an “unchecked expansion of congressional power” that “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers” and declared that the mandate is “neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution.” This is a major victory for opponents of ObamaCare, and the judge made the correct constitutional decision.
Read More »

Without the Individual Mandate, What Will Happen to ObamaCare?

Grace-Marie Turner
Medical Progress Today: Second Opinion, 12/16/10

While Judge Hudson did not halt implementation of the law or declare the overhaul law invalid, supporters and opponents alike argue that losing the individual mandate could cause the whole flawed structure to collapse. The House of Representatives is likely to vote on the individual mandate in the upcoming Congress. Then members will have to go on record as to whether or not they believe in freedom and the sovereignty of the individual or in a new world order in which government is king.
Read More »

 

HEALTH REFORM

Resetting the ‘Obamacare’ Baseline
Douglas Holtz-Eakin and James C. Capretta, Politico, 12/16/10

ObamaCare Will Hurt Low-Skill Workers
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, The Examiner, 12/16/10

Mandatory Health Insurance Now Law’s Central Villain
Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post, 12/15/10

Ruling Has Some Mulling the Necessity of Mandating Insurance
Robert Pear, The New York Times, 12/14/10

Double Trouble for ObamaCare
Merrill Matthews, Forbes: Right Directions, 12/14/10

Blue-Sky Thinking on Health Reform: An Interstate Compact for Health Insurance
John R. Graham, Pacific Research Institute, 12/14/10

Long May She Waive
Joseph Antos, The American, 12/14/2010

Waiver Nation
Merrill Matthews, Health Reform Report, 12/13/10

 

INTERNATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEMS

Ontario Told to Pay for U.S. Surgery
Tom Blackwell, National Post, 12/15/10

A Risky Business: The White Paper and the NHS
James Gubb, Civitas, 12/15/10

 

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

The Fatal Move From The FDA
Sally C. Pipes, Forbes.com, 12/16/10

 

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID

Doctors, Patients, and the New Medicare Provisions
Robert Moffit, Ph.D., The Heritage Foundation, 12/14/10

How to Fix Medicare: A New Vision for a Better Program
Robert Moffit, Ph.D. and James C. Capretta, The Heritage Foundation, 12/13/10

Potential Federal and State-by-State Savings if Medicaid Pharmacy Programs Were Optimally Managed
Joel Menges, Shirley Kang, and Chris Park, The Lewin Group, 12/10

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Events

Grace-Marie Turner on Battle Line
Nationally Syndicated Radio Broadcast
Friday, December 17, 2010
6:00pm EST
Local listening information

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