Buy insurance, or else

Before Thursday’s decision, Democrats were screaming that the Supreme Court was illegitimate, a hopelessly partisan farce, a collection of blind politicians in robes issuing political decisions contrary to established law to benefit one side of the aisle.

Amidst the champagne corks popping and the blaring vuvuzelas in liberal strongholds across the country, you don’t hear that argument anymore.

It seems the Supreme Court is a legitimate, stately collection of wise men and women above politics when it issues decisions that you agree with, but it’s an illegitimate threat to our democracy when it even hints that it may issue a decision you do not agree with. A lesson, I think, in ignoring partisan tomfoolery.

The irony, of course, is that the left is now celebrating the government’s ability to compel each one of us, simply as a matter of existing, to purchase a product from huge corporations.

The very same people who were living in tents, “occupying” Augusta (and other cities across the country) because they opposed corporatism and collusion between big business and big government, are now cheering this Supreme Court decision.

Try to wrap your brain around that, I dare you.

Obviously, I disagree with the majority opinion of the court. It is a contradictory mess of incoherent logic, which – in striking down the commerce clause rationale for the individual mandate, while upholding it as a tax – basically argues that the government cannot force you to purchase something, but it can penalize you with a tax if you don’t purchase that something. Really?

I suppose the upside, from my perspective, is that the court exposed a pretense under which this law was sold to the American people as a lie: namely that the law wouldn’t raise our taxes. Now, the entire concept that the individual mandate is constitutional hinges on the single fact that it is a tax — because any justification that emanates from the Commerce Clause is unconstitutional.

This means, despite what the president told you when he was pushing Congress to pass his legislation over the objections of a vast majority of the citizens of this country, that President Barack Obama raised your taxes. The IRS can now audit you, inquire as to your insurance status and legally compel you, under threat of “taxing” a penalty upon you, to purchase that insurance if you do not already have it.

In January of this year, I changed jobs and began working for a new and very small company that had only a handful of employees. I originally thought that I would purchase health insurance through my new employer, and when I was hired we were still setting up our provider.

As quotes came back, it became clear that it would have been prohibitively expensive – by a long shot – for both the employer and myself to buy insurance. By the time we figured that out, I had already been roughly two months without insurance. I then decided to go through my wife’s job – and her inferior plans – just to ensure that my family was covered.

In the three months I didn’t have insurance, in the eyes of the government of the United States, I was a criminal and deserved to be fined for my negligence.

This is a punitive, oppressive law that compels people to do things under threat of draconian punishment. Ultimately that is my biggest problem with the so called Affordable Care Act. Obama chose a top-down, heavy handed, big government solution to an issue that requires a decentralized, bottom up, flexible approach that frees its people to more easily purchase cheaper health insurance on their own schedule.

We had a problem with the number of uninsured people in this country, particularly among the poor, and the president’s solution was to compel them to purchase something from big insurance companies and punish them if they don’t. Something that they couldn’t afford anyway. No amount of incentives, subsidies or sweeteners could make that fair.

In the end, no Supreme Court decision can change these facts. This is still a bad law and one which deserves to be repealed. A fact you can expect to hear from Mitt Romney more than once in the coming months.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.