Obamacare has been on the ropes before, and then saved at the last minute, most notably by Chief Justice John Roberts. Now a federal judge in Texas has struck down the healthcare law using the simple and straightforward logic that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, and that without it the entire bill collapses. This seems reasonable to anyone with an objective view, but anyone counting on this decision being upheld should brace themselves for disappointment. At The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson explains how the new court decision works, and gives a glimmer of hope that Americans could be freed from their Obamacare chains. He writes:
A federal judge in Texas has brought long-overdue clarity to our interminable debate over health care reform. On Friday, District Judge Reed O’Connor struck down Obamacare in its entirety, arguing that the individual mandate—the part of the law that forces American to buy insurance or pay a penalty—is unconstitutional.
Because O’Connor ruled that the mandate can’t be separated from the rest of the health care law, he invalidated the whole thing.
It’s about time. No serious person has ever doubted that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, because no possible reading of the Commerce Clause could support such an outlandish scheme.
As the late Justice Antonin Scalia noted during oral arguments before the Supreme Court in 2012, if the government can force you to buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause, it can also force you to buy broccoli, or a car, or pretty much anything. Allowing the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause powers would give Congress unlimited authority to regulate almost every aspect of our lives.
In his majority opinion for that case, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declared rather straightforwardly that, “The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance.” But then Roberts did something not straightforward at all. He construed the penalty—the Orwellian-sounding “shared responsibility payment”—as merely a tax, and therefore permissible under the federal government’s taxing power. By this rather crude rhetorical legerdemain, Obamacare survived.
Of course, the individual mandate penalty was never a tax, and everyone knows it.
When Congress passed last year’s tax bill, it set the penalty to zero, beginning next year
That one move exposed the cynical heart of Obamacare for what it is. If there is no penalty, and no revenue being brought in for the federal government, then the penalty isn’t a tax. And because the individual mandate violates Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause, the mandate must be struck down, along with the rest of the law.
All along, everyone knew the real reason the law wasn’t working was because not enough young people were signing up.
Instead of buying expensive and overstuffed health insurance plans, they were opting to pay the much cheaper penalty for skipping coverage altogether. At the time, health policy wonks on the left noted that the law would only work if the penalties were more punitive. Unless it cost more to not have insurance than to buy an Obamacare plan, why would otherwise healthy young people spend upwards of $1,000 a month or more on coverage they were unlikely to use?
Read more here.