Commentary Magazine


Topic: mandatory insurance

ObamaCare Bedevils Romney

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

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Losing His Image, Losing the Center

Even the New York Times sees that, despite Obama’s effort to alter the political and social-welfare landscape, he may have succeeded only in enraging the public. David Sanger writes:

But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.

Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote. …

“Let’s face it, he’s failed in the effort to be the nonpolarizing president, the one who can use rationality and calm debate to bridge our traditional divides,” said Peter Beinart, a liberal essayist who is publishing a history of hubris in politics. “It turns out he’s our third highly polarizing president in a row. But for his liberal base, it confirms that they were right to believe in the guy — and they had their doubts.”

For that lesson in governing, Mr. Obama paid a heavy price. He nearly lost the health care debate, and pulled out victory only after deferring nearly every other priority and stumping with a passion he had not shown since his campaign. His winning argument, in the end, was that while the political result could run against him — and other Democrats — remaking health care was a keystone of his “Change You Can Believe In” credo.

Well, not quite. His campaign credo opposed mandatory insurance and promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. But this much is clear: Obama has handed his opponents a message and a target. The Republican party will put many internal arguments aside and focus on the objective of challenging and repealing ObamaCare. The Left — when not considering that Obama has now herded Americans into the arms of Big Insurance — may be delighted. But no party can win and govern for long without the vast center of the American electorate. Obama has now ceded that to his political opponents.

Even the New York Times sees that, despite Obama’s effort to alter the political and social-welfare landscape, he may have succeeded only in enraging the public. David Sanger writes:

But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.

Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote. …

“Let’s face it, he’s failed in the effort to be the nonpolarizing president, the one who can use rationality and calm debate to bridge our traditional divides,” said Peter Beinart, a liberal essayist who is publishing a history of hubris in politics. “It turns out he’s our third highly polarizing president in a row. But for his liberal base, it confirms that they were right to believe in the guy — and they had their doubts.”

For that lesson in governing, Mr. Obama paid a heavy price. He nearly lost the health care debate, and pulled out victory only after deferring nearly every other priority and stumping with a passion he had not shown since his campaign. His winning argument, in the end, was that while the political result could run against him — and other Democrats — remaking health care was a keystone of his “Change You Can Believe In” credo.

Well, not quite. His campaign credo opposed mandatory insurance and promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. But this much is clear: Obama has handed his opponents a message and a target. The Republican party will put many internal arguments aside and focus on the objective of challenging and repealing ObamaCare. The Left — when not considering that Obama has now herded Americans into the arms of Big Insurance — may be delighted. But no party can win and govern for long without the vast center of the American electorate. Obama has now ceded that to his political opponents.

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RE: What the Health-Care Bill Means

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

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