Unpopular ObamaCare is still a disaster for America

With ObamaCare headed to the Supreme Court and Democrats supporting repeal of damaging tax and regulatory provisions in the law, Americans continue to sour on President Barack Obama’s key legislative accomplishment; according to a new survey from Gallup:

Given a choice, 47% of Americans favor repealing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while 42% want it kept in place. Views on this issue are highly partisan, with Republicans strongly in favor of repeal and the large majority of Democrats wanting the law kept in place.

 should be kept in place or should be repealed]? November 2011 results

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would review the healthcare law’s constitutionality, a case that is likely to be heard in March, with a ruling issued by next summer. Thus, the law’s ultimate fate may now be in the court’s hands, rather than in Congress’, although it will continue to be a dominant issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Republicans and conservatives have continued to level criticism against the law since it was passed in March 2010, while President Obama has been just as vigorous in defending its objectives and future benefits.

Americans’ views on repealing the healthcare law mirror their reactions to its passage. In October, Gallup found 40% of Americans saying passage of the healthcare law was a good thing and 48% a bad thing.

The possible repeal of the healthcare law is highly important to Americans on both sides of the question, with 66% of those favoring its repeal saying it is very important that Congress take this action, and 60% of those who believe it should be kept in place saying it is very important that Congress not repeal it.

Another poll released by CNN showed that a majority of Americans favored the individual mandate, which is odd since that provision is generally opposed in surveys on the issue. But Peter Suderman points out via The New York Times that CNN “did not explain that failure to comply would result in a fine.”

House Republicans are pushing repeal of the CLASS Act, a part of ObamaCare that was recently axed by the Department of Health and Human Services because it was too difficult to implement and unsustainable. Of course, the White House has arrogantly stated that they oppose repeal.

Unfortunately for the Obama Administration, the CLASS Act isn’t the only problem that they’re eventually going to have to deal with, as Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler noted yesterday in the Wall Street Journal:

The law encourages states to create health-insurance exchanges, but it permits Washington to create them if states decline. So far, only 17 states have passed legislation to create an exchange.

This is where the glitch comes in: ObamaCare authorizes premium assistance in state-run exchanges (Section 1311) but not federal ones (Section 1321). In other words, states that refuse to create an exchange can block much of ObamaCare’s spending and practically force Congress to reopen the law for revisions.

The Obama administration wants to avoid that legislative debacle, so this summer it proposed an IRS rule to offer premium assistance in all exchanges “whether established under section 1311 or 1321.” On Nov. 17 the IRS will hold a public hearing on that proposal. According to a Treasury Department spokeswoman, the administration is “confident” that offering premium assistance where Congress has not authorized it “is consistent with the intent of the law and our ability to interpret and implement it.”

Such confidence is misplaced. The text of the law is perfectly clear. And without congressional authorization, the IRS lacks the power to dispense tax credits or spend money.

What about congressional intent? Law professor Timothy Jost suggests that since ObamaCare requires all exchanges to report information about premium assistance, and it would be silly to impose that requirement on federal exchanges if their enrollees were not eligible, that shows Congress could not have intended anything but to provide assistance in federal exchanges. At least, he argues, there’s enough ambiguity here about Congress’s intent that federal courts will permit the administration to resolve it.

Not so fast. The Supreme Court has increasingly limited such deference to cases where the text of the law—rather than Congress’s intent—is ambiguous. In this case the language of the law is clear, as even Mr. Jost admits.

The health law’s authors in Congress deliberately chose to pass the bill with known imperfections and to use the reconciliation process to make only limited amendments. Writing a perfect bill would have required too many votes and risked failure. If what they passed was an imperfect bill with no premium assistance in federal exchanges, then that is what Congress intended.

And while the Obama Administration is still claiming that the law is going to work wonders, the evidence to this point shows quite contrary. Employers are laying off workers, including 1,000 jobs cut last week at a medical manufacturer, and others will no doubt cease offering health insurance benefits rather than take the impact of costs associated with ObamaCare. Suderman also notes that the claims are simply unrealistic:

Yesterday, the White House announced that, as part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be spending a billion dollars on grants to health care innovators. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took a moment to brag about all that the law has accomplished so far.  ”We’ve taken incredible steps to reduce health care costs and improve care, but we can’t wait to do more,” she said.

By reduced costs, I presume she is not referring to the price of employer health insurance premiums, which jumped by 9 percent in the first year after ObamaCare passed after rising just three to five percent in previous years. Nor I presume does she mean individual health insurance premiums in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, which are projected to rise for many individuals thanks to the law. Nor do I presume she’s referring to the glitch in the law’s health insurance subsidy structure that could add $500 billion to its total cost should authorities proceed with expanding coverage as planned.

And when the health care reform laws fails to do everything that the Obama Administration and Democrats claimed it would do, there will be endless cries for a single-payer health system. That’s what the only real purpose ObamaCare was ever supposed to serve.

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