Monday, September 24 , 2018, 3:06 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 

Tom Watson: Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Obamacare

Health-care reform law puts what should be personal decisions in the hands of an advisory board made up of unelected and unaccountable 'experts'

As a matter of policy, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is a disaster for this country on numerous levels. It is already driving up costs much faster than they were going up previously, and dramatically increasing premiums for companies and individuals alike. This law is delivering results that are directly opposite of what was promised.

It retains everything that is wrong with our current system, primarily the third-party payer structure, and adds layers of inefficiency, regulation and cost-shifting, resulting in a system that is economically unviable. President Barack Obama’s solution to control exploding costs is to empower a group of 15 unelected and unaccountable “experts” who will decide what will be covered and for whom, in essence making life and death decisions from an office in Washington, D.C.

This group has the Orwellian title of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. The IPAB has unprecedented powers to both legislate and execute, a clear violation of the separation of powers.

If Obamacare stands as the law of the land, say hello to rationing by government fiat. These 15 IPAB know-it-alls get to decide which procedures and drugs will be covered and for whom and which won’t, and if you don’t like their decisions, too bad. The elderly will inevitably bear the consequences of this arbitrary approach, as they are the largest consumer of health services. The IPAB will cut first where the biggest costs are.

I have always found it curious, indeed inexplicable, why some people are so eager to submit themselves to such control by others, willing to give away their freedoms and choices for some undefined degree of apparent security. But so it is. We’ve been conditioned to hate insurance companies, but I would remind everyone, you can always get another insurance company, you can’t get another government.

But the most fundamental problem with this law is how it alters our relationship with our government. The first obligation of our federal government under our Constitution is to preserve our liberties, not take them. That is why the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments, was passed shortly after the Constitution was ratified.

Our federal government is one of limited and specifically enumerated powers. Those powers not specifically given to the federal government remain the province of the states or the people. The 10th Amendment is clear and specific in this regard.

This brings us to the legal debate over Obamacare playing out in our courts. More than half of the states have sued the federal government over the individual mandate and the Medicaid provisions in the bill. When we have more than half of the states in our union suing the government over a bill that passed over the direct opposition of the American people, one could easily conclude we have a serious problem with the law. Indeed we do.

The fundamental issue is the “individual mandate,” which is the legal requirement to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. At issue is the government’s assertion that the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate commence between the states, allows them to compel a private citizen to buy a product.

The case at its core is really about individual liberty, states’ rights and our system of federalism, not about health care or health insurance. The implications beyond health care cannot be overstated.

This case strikes at the fundamental principles of our system of government. It’s about whether there remain any constraints on federal power or its reach into our daily lives. If the federal government, under the force of law, can compel a private citizen to enter into a legally binding private contract as a condition of merely existing, it can force us to do anything.

Many point to the fact that states require a driver to purchase automobile insurance, and that means it’s OK to force us to buy health insurance. There are two huge holes in this argument. First, the states are not the federal government, and the federal government has no general police power to enact such laws for the public good. Secondly, the requirement to buy car insurance is in order to engage in the privilege of driving. Forcing somebody to buy health insurance merely because they breathe is quite another matter.

You can choose not to drive; you can’t choose not to breathe. This is an issue of fundamental individual liberty. It is a direct attack on a bedrock principle of our nation.

Our federal government is torturing both the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause of our Constitution into a legal pretzel trying to redefine more than 200 years of precedence in order to salvage this assault on our liberties. If they succeed, our country will be much less free.

Whatever side of the health-care debate people reside, they should not be eager to see their hard-won personal liberties stripped from them in this manner. Once they are gone, we are unlikely to get them back.

Tom Watson is a Santa Barbara businessman and was the 2010 Republican nominee for the 23rd Congressional District.

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