While all eyes are or aren’t on Washington this holiday season as we near our collective jump off the fiscal cliff in the New Year, there is another battle well under way in our state capitals over, you guessed it, the president’s signature health care overhaul.
Upholding the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as a tax, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion-of-one left room for “continued legal challenges to certain aspects of the law’s application.” So, given conservatives’ failure to defeat the law on constitutional grounds, the media has enjoyed reporting the frenzy of small-scale, more benign attempts to obstruct the law’s implementation, rather than delving deep into the pending disaster of the state’s new health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions.
While there are some very legitimate challenges to the law concerning the contraception mandates, proponents and opponents shouldn’t get distracted by the political theater that has obsessed the talking heads as of late, such as the following:
1. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately held, successful but NOT Catholic Church- owned and operated retail chain with more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, opposing the Health and Human Services “preventive services” mandate, which forces the business to provide the “morning after pill” without a co-pay in its health insurance plan, or face fines up to $1.3 million dollars per day. The case was the perfect opportunity for the left to paint the right monolithically as religious fundamentalists, doing a disservice to the country and the rule of law. But in case you were wondering, to avoid the per day fine, Hobby Lobby could opt to drop health care coverage completely and be penalized $2 million a month, forcing all its employees onto the Medicaid roles or into the federal-state health care exchange markets. Recently, a U.S. federal appeals court rejected the claim by the chain claiming privately-owned companies are secular, for-profit enterprises that do not possess the same religious rights as the individual members of the family or a church institution. However, on the contrary, an injunction was recently granted in a similar case involving Tyndale House, a privately owned company that sells bibles.
2. A South Carolina lawmaker, State Rep. Bill Chumley threatened to throw any official implementing the law in jail for up to five years. Of course, Chumley’s proposal is unconstitutional, and ridiculous so don’t expect Governor Nikki Haley to weigh in on the matter.
3. The U.S. House of Representatives voting to repeal the law more than 30 times. Congress is a procedural body, so voting on certain pieces of legislation multiple times, fine, but this was excessive, pointless, and did little to help the GOP’s obstructionist PR problem. After all, the law was passed before anyone knew what was in it, so shouldn’t efforts be focused on figuring that out rather than 30 votes for aesthetics?
All in all, these attempts to take down the law are the manifestation of the country’s frustration with the fact that the Obama administration is being everything but supportive with the states, institutions and sources, of community forced to implement it.
Doctors hate it and have never had a more negative attitude about the future of medicine. Hospitals are struggling with the law’s uncertainties or are being forced into large Accountable Care Organization (ACO) models that are no panacea, and, for the most part, even two elections and a Supreme Court decision later, the American public is still very uneasy about the law because they still don’t know what is in it, and most of President Obama’s partners in crime, such as MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber, have since acknowledged the law will do everything but bend the cost curve, especially for young workers.
Instead of wasting the country’s time and energy talking about one wacko in South Carolina, the more than 30 repeal votes in the House, or a legitimate, but small legal challenge, state leaders, regardless of their decision to or not to implement a health care exchange, must continue to expose the administration’s lack of cooperation and flexibility.
For months, the states and groups like the bipartisan National Governors Association and the National Association of Medicaid Directors have begged the administration for information about how they're forced to make the law work in practice. Louisiana even filed Freedom of Information Act requests, which are still pending. Demonstrating the government’s inability to centrally plan America’s health care, this is simply unacceptable and should be driving the public’s opinion of the law.
Efforts to block the behemoth law, or see it implemented successfully should focus on defending federalism and explaining the vulnerabilities that very well could be reason the law crumbles under its own weight, rather than lead our already bankrupt states even further down the road of insolvency.