Health care shouldn’t be political football

May 6, 2012


Next month, the Supreme Court will deliver its judgment on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. The key issue is the “individual mandate” which requires people to buy insurance.

After the March hearings, legal writer Jeffrey Toobin wrote that President Obama’s soliciter-general had an “off day” when he tried to defend the bill. “Still, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the challenge that he was facing,” he wrote. By “challenge,” Toobin didn’t mean the task of defending a jury-rigged bill passed by dubious methods by members of Congress who hadn’t bothered to read it. Rather, he meant the tough questions members of the court asked him, for which there were no easy answers.

Toobin’s defense of the bill in essence is that Congress ought to be free to do whatever it thinks is best and that “unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured judges” shouldn’t overturn the work of “the democratically elected branches of government.” It’s a little hard to square this blind faith in Congress at a time when the institution’s approval ratings are at historic lows. And you have to wonder if Toobin would be as critical of the Supreme Court if it were questioning a Congress dominated by right wing zealots.

Even Anthony Kennedy – supposedly the moderate on the court and often the “swing vote” — said that the mandate “changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.” But rather than inspiring some skepticism and concern about the bill, Kennedy’s thoughtful comment provoked Toobin to belittle the justice’s competence.

Nothing seems capable of persuading partisans that ObamaCare might be less than Holy Writ: Not the spectacle of deal-making with special interests, not the sordid attempt to buy votes for its passage, not the fact that more than half the country still opposes the bill. The government’s own budget office has said that ObamaCare will cost far more than promised. Health and Human Services has already jettisoned the bill’s long term care entitlement as economically impossible. Moreover, the bill didn’t address the structural problems in our health care system, the perverse incentives created by tax policies, or the looming insolvency of Medicare and Medicaid

In an audacious display of indifference to the truth, the president claimed that the bill was passed by “a strong majority,” while everyone knows it barely passed, and only with resort to the dubious device of “reconciliation.” Instead of trying to sell the public on the bill, Obama displayed his characteristic detachment and let Congress cook up another convoluted 2,700-page bureaucratic monstrosity.

Economist Alan Blinder implied that opposition to Obamacare is an attack on health care and disease prevention, that the bill represents the sole avenue of reform and that its provisions are actually implicit in the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many “advanced” countries have state-run health care, he wrote, without mentioning that those states also have health care funding crises. He added his own dig at the Supreme Court: “Does anyone think it is sensible to have nine lawyers decide what sort of health care payment system the nation should have?”

Of course, the court isn’t deciding what kind of health care payment system the nation should have. It’s deciding whether ObamaCare is constitutional. That’s exactly what the Supreme Court is supposed to do. Blinder expressed alarm that if the mandate is declared unconstitutional, the entire bill would be destroyed, as if to say that even if it’s unconstitutional and poorly conceived, the court ought to approve it to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Funny, how people can applaud when the Supreme Court “legislates” in accordance with their views and then be appalled when it swings the other way. It’s worth noting that reservations about ObamaCare are appearing even among Democrats. North Carolina Democratic Congressman Brad Miller recently said that, “We could have all been better off – President Obama politically, Democrats in Congress politically, and the nation would have been better off ” if his party had tabled OmamaCare. Liberal icon Barney Frank said, “I think we paid a terrible price for health care” and suggested that the Democrats should have had second thoughts about ObamaCare after the storm of opposition arose.

This show of introspection, rare for politicians, is encouraging. But note that the concern is all about political repercussions. What they should be worried about is the viability of ObamaCare and its impact on the future of the United States. Health care should never have become a political football fought over by Republicans and Democrat, a religious war that one side must win and the other must lose. The only debate should be about what will work and what can we afford.

There are many ways to reform the system that have been ignored. ObamaCare has unfortunately and needlessly enmeshed health care in profound issues such as the encroachment of the regulatory state on individual freedoms and the division of power between federal and state governments. It keeps us locked on the rail of unsustainable deficit spending. Opponents of the bill argue that it would give Congress unlimited power over all individual economic decisions. We should step with care into that brave new world. There may be dragons there.

— George Gurley, a resident of rural Baldwin City, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


cato_the_elder 1 year, 11 months ago

The previous two posts were posted earlier in this thread. I do not know why they have also appeared at the end of this thread.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, George, it has been a political football for generations. As I recall, Teddy R was the first to propose the idea. My gut feeling....the Supremes will uphold most, if not all of the law. If the hangup is the "mandate," change it to tax and they could be done. The court has affirmed that the taxes we pay each week to Social Security, medicare, etc. are allowed. I'm still not sure why they didn't do this in the first place. T-A-X is a four letter word, you know.


its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

“We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it..." San Fran Nan Pewlosi, spastic eye-twitchy idiot extraordinaire


tbaker 1 year, 11 months ago

There are a lot of things that could have been done to achieve the President’s three goals of reducing cost, providing HC to more people, and maintaining and/or improving quality. 1. Reform state insurance commissions such that health care could be sold nationally. 2. Reform state insurance commissions to permit the sale of “cafeteria” style health insurance coverage. People pick and choose what they want (like congress gets) 3. Make every dollar of health care spending a tax credit for individual tax filers. 4. Tort reform to limit malpractice lawsuits. 5. Licensing reform. …to name a few. All of these were proposed amendments to ObamaCare. All were defeated by the democrats. That tells you something about what their real goals were.


toe 1 year, 11 months ago

Only wait to avoid the politics is to limit the power of government. One way or another, all government power begins to decline when the people lack the resources to support it.


rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

"Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. are being pulled into an expanding congressional investigation into the deal drugmakers cut with the Obama administration to support Democrats’ overhaul of the U.S. health-care system, according to three people familiar with the talks." More shame on Obama and the Democrats.

Obamacare... call us when you are shovel ready!


tange 1 year, 11 months ago

What, political, is not a football, these days?

/ gimme the pigeonhole seats


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Healthcare Reform Report Card

Let's Compare: Single-Payer (HR 676 and S 703) Expanded Medicare for All Vs. Proposed Healthcare “Private insurance with Public Option” Physicians for a National Health Program


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

"If the industry was deregulated and insurance companies couold sell across state lines it would create competition ( the thing that drives down prices and creates better product )"

Where is this concept working? I say that is more theory than substance. Deregulation does not seem to be working that way. Price fixing is in the air.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

The medical insurance industry likes republicans best because they are sure the repubs if given the opportunity will return to the previous status quo = laissez faire complete deregulation and premiums soaring in cost to unprecedented heights.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Some people seem to be under the impression that Pres. Obama and the democrats designed Obamacare. Couldn't be further from the truth. Then again why are the repubs and the medical insurance industry pissin and moanin?

The fact of the matter is the largest insurance provider in the USA aka Wellpoint had it's staff people writing Obamacare.

Meanwhile... In most polls, the majority of Americans favor a non-profit alternative -- like Medicare -- that would give the private health industry some competition. So if so many of us, including President Obama himself, want that public option, how come we're not getting one?

Because the medicine that could cure our healthcare nightmare has been poisoned from Day One – fatally adulterated, thanks to the infamous, Washington revolving door. Movers and shakers rotate between government and the private sector at a speed so dizzying they forget for whom they’re supposed to be working.

Liz Fowler.

Fowler used to work for WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the country. She was its vice president of public policy. Baucus’ office failed to mention this in the press release announcing her appointment as senior counsel in February 2008, even though it went on at length about her expertise in “health care policy.”

Now she’s working for the very committee with the most power to give her old company and the entire industry exactly what they want – higher profits – and no competition from alternative non-profit coverage that could lower costs and premiums.

A veteran of the revolving door, Fowler had a previous stint working for Senator Baucus – before her time at WellPoint. But wait, there’s more. The person who was Baucus top health advisor before he brought back Liz Fowler? Her name is Michelle Easton. And why did she leave the staff of the committee? To go to work – surprise – at a firm representing the same company for which Liz Fowler worked – WellPoint. As a lobbyist.

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard in the old Washington shell game. Lobbyist out, lobbyist in. It’s why they always win. They’ve been plowing this ground for years.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Reasons for getting rid of the majority of Obamacare:

  1. During the time that it will take for the health insurance legislation to begin (2013 in the House version and 2014 in the Senate version), tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans will die.

  2. Millions of people will remain uninsured: 17 million in the House version and 24 million in the Senate version.

  3. Medical bankruptcies will continue as families will face out-of-pocket costs up to $10,000 in addition to the cost of premiums and the cost of uncovered services.

  4. People who are uninsured will suffer the further indignity of being forced to pay a fine which may be as high as 2.5% of their income (House version).

  5. The number of people who are under-insured will increase. There is no guarantee that premiums will be affordable even for those who qualify for federal subsidies. It offers a “public option” so small and weak (and estimated to be more expensive than private insurance) that it is set up to serve as an example of failure.

  6. People will continue to be consigned to only receiving the quality of care that they can afford. Instead of a standardized benefit plan that covers all necessary care, people will have to choose from a tiered set of plans. The least expensive plans will cover only 60% of necessary care and patients will be required to pay the balance.

  7. The legislation will not control healthcare costs and will increase the waste in healthcare spending. The regulation of insurance companies, which is predicted to fail by industry whistleblowers, will be expensive to enforce. The “exchange” will add another level of bureaucracy which in Massachusetts has added a 4%surcharge to each insurance premium.

  8. Private health insurance will be given 30 million more customers, and its stranglehold on the healthcare industry will be even greater. The legislation transfers hundreds of billions of public dollars to private insurance companies. Between $447 and $605 billion in public dollars (depending on the Senate or House version) will be given to the private insurers in the form of subsidies.

  9. The bill writes into law protection for the drug manufacturers from having to deal with the collective purchasing power of the American people. Pharmaceutical corporations have already raised prices on brand name prescriptions by 9% this year. Bio-tech firms receive a windfall 12 year patent on new pharmaceuticals.

  10. The legislation continues to allow discrimination based on age and immigration status. Older enrollees can be charged up to twice as much as younger enrollees. And enrollees will be required to prove citizenship in order to receive subsidies. Non-citizens will be required to bear the full cost of purchasing insurance.

  11. In order to reach a bare majority to pass the bill, the House accepted limits on the reproductive healthcare rights of women beyond current stringent federal restrictions.

Health Care NOW


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

BUSHCO Republicans are under the impression the most expensive medical insurance in the world represents fiscal responsible. When in fact it represents extreme inflation and pork barrel for the industry.

Reasons why Obamacare should have been voted down:


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

6 years under BUSHCO republican controlled dominance produced what type of health care reform?

More money for the medical insurance industry by way of increased cost of premiums like clockwork and Medicare Part D. With the medical insurance industry writing the legislation.

Very interesting.


Armstrong 1 year, 11 months ago

Rather, he meant the tough questions members of the court asked him, for which there were no easy answers.

Toobin’s defense of the bill in essence is. None. After admitting the bill was going to aid only about 20 million Americans followed by numerous gasps and sputters with additional, frequent gulps of water the answer everyone was looking for was out of the bag and could not be put back in. Show over


BornAgainAmerican 1 year, 11 months ago

Voters beware and pay particular attention to the process by which Obamacare was foisted upon the American citizenry despite overwhelming opposition. If re-elected, the Annointed One will pull out all stops and relentlessly pursue his far left, ideological agenda against any and all opposition. This President believes he knows what is good for us even if we don't. Drunken sailor spending will continue and we will find ourselves looking back and wishing that our debt was "only" $16 Trillion. Questionable, unscrupulous methods will once again be used to ram uncontitutional legislation down our collective throats to advance Obama's social agenda. Look to Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain to get a glimpse of your future if we allow the Spender-In-chief another 4 years of control.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

"Health care shouldn’t be political football"

That's my "friend" Geooorge. Geooorge it has to be a "political football" so that the driftwood will vote for Flexible "composite girl lovin'" Obama.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 11 months ago

"Health care shouldn’t be political football"

Hmm, with a headline like that, you'd think that George might find a little space in these several hundred words to note that Republicans did nothing but sit on their hands and obstruct the process any way they could, while Democrats recycled one former Republican idea for healthcare reform after another into what would become the ironically nicknamed "Obamacare." Or that he might mention that Republicans still offer no solutions to the healthcare disaster they they are fully complicit in creating, but have no compunction about having their majority on the Supreme Court make this a political football just in time for fall elections.


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