Our long national nightmare is over. At least temporarily.
Last week, a federal judge struck down Obamacare, ruling that former President Barack Obama’s central domestic “accomplishment” was now unconstitutional given Congress’s elimination of the individual mandate. The Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012, holding that the mandate essentially constituted a tax. Without that core provision, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the entire law could not stand:
“The Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional,” O’Connor wrote. “The Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.”
Absent the mandate to ensure a large pool of people in the system, “Congress and the Supreme Court have stated, the architectural design fails,” argued Judge O’Connor.
In other words, the elimination of the individual mandate gutted both the law’s workability and its constitutionality. What the Republican Congress could not accomplish legislatively — a complete repeal of Obamacare — it eventually achieved by sinking its central pillar.
President Trump tweeted that the ruling was “Great news” and urged “Mitch and Nancy” and the rest of Congress to develop new legislation that would provide “GREAT health care” and continue protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
The White House also made clear that the law would stay in effect pending appeal likely to the Supreme Court, where the same five Justices who ruled it constitutional in 2012 remain on the bench.
Obamacare supporters hope this is a case of “Obamacare is dead! Long live Obamacare!”
Almost exactly nine years ago, Senate Democrats rammed through their widely despised, chaotic health care bill, which they, Mr. Obama and their fellow leftists sold with distortions, distractions and straight-up lies. On Dec. 24, 2009, they passed it, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like socialized medicine.
It’s worth remembering that they still consider centralized health care the crown jewel of their redistributive state for one simple reason: if the government controls your health care, the government controls you. This is why, when the country was in the depths of economic crisis in 2009, Mr. Obama and the Democrats rushed through health care “reform,” for which no one was then clamoring.
As the public soon discovered, it was about neither health care nor reform. It was really principally about government power and control.
On the most personal, intimate questions of your body and health, faceless government bureaucrats would be making your decisions. Never mind that in every industrialized nation in which socialized medicine has been implemented, there are endless stories of bankrupting costs, patient neglect, life-threatening wait times, rationing and above-average mortality rates. For the redistributionists, passing Obamacare was about stripping away individual freedom while taking one giant step in the march toward centralized control.
Their ideal vision continues to be a single-payer system, in which the government runs every aspect of health care. In 2009 and early 2010, Democrats could not make single-payer a political reality, even when they held the presidency and both houses of Congress with big majorities. So they designed Obamacare, which was as close as they could get to their single-payer dream while laying the groundwork for it. A “starter home,” as Sen. Tom Harkin described it at the time. Then (and soon-to-be next) Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed, “Once we kick through this door, there’ll be more legislation to follow.”
Given the addictive nature of entitlements, they knew that once Obamacare was allowed to wrap its tentacles tightly around the system, Americans would become acclimated to government-run health care, making the ultimate push for single-payer easier. Indeed, most leading Democrats now openly support Medicare-for-all (which will end all private insurance), including old radicals such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and fresher socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
They’re upping their centralized health care demands, despite the fact that Obamacare was a massive tangle of spending, taxes and redistribution that, as predicted, severely limited patient choice, sent the health care industry into disruptive convulsions, was plagued by corruption and plunked a huge wet blanket over the economy.
Leftists cheered when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare six years ago. But the context in which the law operates has now changed, and with Judge O’Connor’s ruling, their cheers for the federal judiciary have stopped. We don’t know how the current Court will rule. But we do know that for the left, Obamacare was always just a stepping stone, which is why instead of abandoning government-run health care, they’re preparing to go even bigger. Their relentless mission is to, as Mr. Obama put it, “fundamentally transform” the nation toward statist collectivism, of which government health care is a critical part.
So as we cheer Judge O’Connor’s decision, we must prepare for the coming health care battles, which will make the ones over Obamacare seem quaint. The ambitious left doesn’t let setbacks stop them, and we mustn’t let temporary victories content us.
• Monica Crowley is a columnist for The Washington Times.
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