Our email inbox here at WOSH News has been inundated with press releases in advance of the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act this week. Lawmakers, political parties, advocacy groups and even the White House are flooding the media with their side of the story.
A lot of the releases include statistics. Numbers like how many under-employed 25-year olds who moved back home after college were added to their parents' health insurance policies since that provision of the ACA went into effect. And how many people who had been unable to get mainstream insurance due to pre-existing conditions are now covered by their employers. And even the tens of thousands of people without insurance who died "prematurely" (as opposed to the tens of MILLIONS who die "prematurely" every year who do have health insurance, I guess). For some reason, nobody has all the same numbers. Some folks might want to get together and decide which figures are going to be the "official numbers" for propaganda use from here on out.
While the press releases are "informational", even the longest of them is still missing some very key details. I am yet to see one that includes the cost to policy holders to take on all of these new non-contributing and extremely expensive new members of the risk pool. (Here at the Radio Ranch, those of us on the fiscally-responsible High Deductible/Health Savings Account plan didn't see a premium increase--but those on the standard plan did see a $24/month rate increase--meaning the ACA is costing them an additional $288 a year.) Also missing from the releases are the number of companies that will choose to pay the $5000 per employee "penalty" for failing to provide health insurance to employees--which would not come close to covering the actual expense of those dropped workers enrolling in the only other option--a government-provided health care plan.
But the most glaring omissions from each and every "pro-ACA" media release is a citation of a Constitutional article or amendment that proves the "individual mandate"--the heart of the law--is legal. You would think that so many groups--not to mention the White House--would be able to come up with some passage that says "Yes, Congress can require every single person to buy something--without any exception--and penalize you if you fail to do so." Previous legal minds found some basis in the Constitution to legalize abortion and warrantless wire taps of citizens--so a "you must purchase health insurance" clause has to be in there right?
I fully expect the Supreme Court to uphold at least some tenets of the Affordable Care Act, given Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce (even though health insurance cannot legally be sold across state lines)--so the freeloader 20-somethings and the pre-existing condition provisions will likely remain in place. But the individual mandate will--and should--be struck down. Plain and simple, it's just not Constitutional--no matter how good it makes some people feel.