by R. Lee Wrights
BURNET, Texas (March 31) – Like most bills passed by Congress, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does exactly the opposite of what its title implies. It doesn’t protect patients at all, but actually harms them by making health care more expensive and less available. The U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to overturn this unconstitutional and damaging law, and it should – do away with the entire law.
The most obvious reason to strike down this law, to anyone who has a clear understanding of the U.S. Constitution, is that there’s nothing in the Constitution that grants the federal government the power to have anything at all to do with health care in the first place. The law completely disregards the principle of a limited federal government with specific and enumerated powers.
To justify the law, supporters employed a distorted interpretation of the commerce clause. When the Founders gave the federal government the power to “regulate commerce … among the several states” it was clearly understood to mean that individual states couldn’t put tariffs on goods or services from other states, or prevent the import or export of goods or services between states.
In other words, people could buy and sell across state lines without hindrance. It was in no way intended to give power to the federal government to force people to buy something. As James Madison explained, this principle of specific and limited power would be turned on its head because “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done … the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.”
The second reason the court should overturn this noxious law is that it fundamentally destroys the special relationship between doctors and patients. Contrary to attempts by President Barack Obama and others to blame the greed of medical practitioners for the supposed health care crisis, most people do not go into medical practice to get rich. They become doctors to help people. This law prevents them from doing that. An increasing number of doctors are giving up their private medical practices because of the burden of excessive government regulation.
As the federal government has become more and more entangled in health care, doctors spend more time dealing with government bureaucrats and insurance companies than they do with patients. Costs, to doctors, and to patients, have skyrocketed and the quality and availability of care has declined. The health care law only made this problem worse.
Under the plan, “accountable care organizations” operating under rules written by federal bureaucrats will decide what medical practices and services are provided and how much reimbursement is paid to doctors. In other words, medical decisions will be determined by cost, not by patient need. Further, the law stifles innovation with more controls on the cost and use of services. It even places a tax on pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.
America once had the best health care system imaginable. As recently as the 1960s, low-cost health insurance was available to virtually everyone — including people with existing medical problems. Doctors made house calls. A hospital stay cost only a few days’ pay. Charity hospitals were available to take care of families who could not afford to pay for health care.
That system was destroyed not by the free market, not by greedy doctors or insurance companies, but by power-hungry politicians seeking a means to increase their power. They saddled health care providers with excessive and intrusive government regulation, thus driving up costs and limiting access to health care for many Americans. In effect, they had the federal government break your legs, then hand you a pair of crutches and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government you would not be able to walk.”
If Americans are ever going to learn to walk again without the aid of a government crutch, the Supreme Court must strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That will be the first step toward true health care reform.
R. Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.