COLUMN: Lilley – Health care and freedom

- June 28th, 2012

Obamacare stunner: U.S. court deals blow to freedom of choice

by Brian Lilley

Obamacare has survived.

I have to say the decision was a stunning one, not so much because the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the complex and overreaching health care law to stand but because of the way it arrived at that decision.

The Obama administration claimed it was able to force every American to buy health insurance because of the power it receives through the “commerce clause” of the Constitution. That clause allows the American federal government to regulate trade between the individual states.

Opponents of Obamacare rightly argued that forcing individuals to buy health care had nothing to do with regulating trade and the Supreme Court agreed.

Still, they upheld the law.

In a stunning move, Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative jurist, joined with the four liberals on the court to uphold Obamacare by arguing that it was legal under the taxing powers granted to Congress.

This revelation that Obamacare is a tax scheme might be news to most Americans, including President Obama, who swore up and down it wasn’t a tax.

“I absolutely reject that notion,” Obama said when asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about the claim that Obamacare amounted to a tax hike.

The arguments put forward by Roberts to arrive at his decision — that the American government can legally force you to buy something even if you do not want it or need it — are convoluted and an affront to freedom.

Plenty of Canadians used to living under our government system may not understand this notion. But Obamacare is not government care — it is the government forcing you to buy something.

America was designed to be a country where the Constitution limited the authority of the government over the people. But the Obamacare law and this decision have changed that.

Unless this law is repealed, the power of the U.S. federal government has just expanded dramatically.

Canadians can get pretty smug about their health-care system when comparing it to the American one and this decision may lead plenty of people to smile — but should we?

Under Ontario’s government-run system, doctors are being told they must get approval from bureaucrats to order potentially life-saving tests for their patients. In Ottawa, a heart patient was rejected for an EKG; in Windsor, a cancer patient told she couldn’t have a PET scan despite a referral from her doctor.

In both cases the patients were over 70, perhaps too old for care in the minds of some bureaucrats.

Government health care leads to rationing and if this were being done by a private company, there would be media outrage and never-ending headlines. But when the government does it to you, it’s OK!

Neither the Canadian nor American health care systems are even close to perfect. But both are being used by governments to attack personal freedom. In the United States, Obamacare seeks to force people to buy insurance even if they don’t want to, while in Canada many provincial governments seek to stop citizens from buying supplemental insurance or buying private care when the public system denies them.

In a free country, shouldn’t we be free to make our own decisions?

Categories: Politics

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8 comments

  1. Denny Lama says:

    As if governments are not in the habit of mandating.
    Freedom of choice has become an illusion and only a fond memory.
    Let’s not be hypocritical, this bastardization only happened because the there was no way in hell Republicans would have passed universal health care. Not that that is a cure either. Wish Canada had a combination private and gov’t health care like the Western European countries.

  2. Bill Elder says:

    Our Supremes indulge in the same statist expansionist subterfuge when concocting convoluted rationales for supporting Federalist incursions out of their jurisdiction and into our privacy/rights/freedoms. In this instance the SCOTUS had the Feds and the Insurance industry pressure groups on their back to concoct a justification for federal intervention in personal consumer choice (Obamacare). They mutated the commerce clause defense into a tax matter then twisted that with a presumed Fed right to negative taxation – taxing you for NOT buying something – an obvious misinterpretation of the constitutional powers. This will negatively charge the air of political dissonance and empowers fed taxing power with insurmountable potential for abuse and corruption. What was gained socially for such an obvious partisan court edict.

    I often wonder about what drives these untouchable elites on supreme courts. They hide behind a pretense of infallible legal reason/fairness then indulge in crass political subterfuge – don’t they realize that every time they substitute political activism, partisan agendas or personal bias for legal logic in their decisions that they drive the wedge deeper between the people and the law – widen the gap between the legal system and popular support or respect for it. These politically tainted decisions of the Supremes are the poison which has put the law into wide disrepute and it appears things are not getting better.

  3. Mike Peckitt says:

    Frankly I don’t see any difference between a government mandate that car owners carry insurance on their vehicles. Many drivers may not consider insurance a necessity and therefore being forced to buy car insurance is a denial of their personal liberty.

    Our Health System in Canada is flawed – there is not questioning that. However when your sample group is 33 Million you will inevitably find cases where citizens have been poorly served by our Health System. Don’t forget that we deliver a Health System that (per capita) costs about 60% of what the US pays and our system covers all Canadians. Consider also that many key metrics (life expectancy, cancer survival, infant mortality for example) are the same or marginally better than in the US.

    I don’t think there’s any question that the US needs to update its Healthcare system to reduce costs and expand coverage for its citizens. How they choose to do it is up to them. Tax, fine or single payer – they’ll ultimately find their own way.

  4. Richard Peters says:

    Freedom? Fine. There’s other freedoms that we must guarantee:

    - The freedom to get an abortion
    - The freedom for two members of the same sex to marry
    - The freedom to consume drugs which are currently illegal
    - etc. etc. etc.

    Conservatives are a hoot: it’s all about freedom until it goes against whatever mythology they subscribe to.

  5. Alain says:

    In my opinion this should never be a partisan issue, as to whether a judge is left-wing or right-wing. What matters is whether or not the judge follows the country’s founding documents in making a decision, in this case the American Constitution. If the majority of citizens want to amend the founding documents, then let the government do so. Otherwise judges who think they can ignore such documents or read into them what is not there and was often purposely excluded should be removed from the bench.

  6. Bill Elder says:

    Richard Peters @ June 29, 2012 3:58 pm says:

    “Conservatives are a hoot: it’s all about freedom until it goes against whatever mythology they subscribe to.”

    Oddly enough it was “conservatives” who were responsible for writing both our founding constitution and bill of rights – both based in the civil freedom of a common-law jurisdiction. But I suppose this is a piffling point to be dismissed when one is in the throes of a blind partisan tantrum.

    As or conservative ideology, I can’t help you, I’m a Libertarian (classic Liberal). There is no law forbidding practical abortion or SS connubial union you are therefore free to engage in either of these activities. Dope smoking should be decriminalized (because it is a victimless crime) as it was on the day we confederated. However, if you want an abortion, knock yourself out, have 8 or 10 – go slaughter a sea of “human tissue” and “stem cells” – as long as you pay for it and you can prove the aborted tissue is not a sensate human. (I’m sure even deluded leftists would have trouble allowing 12th month, induced birth killing of an unborn) Pot? – Smoke a field full, kill as many brain cells as you want, drink and smoke until your blood is half ethanol and half nicotine – as long as your self-induced intoxication/stupefaction harms no one but yourself. SS Marriage? Why stop there? Marry the whole football team, marry the whole ice capades crew – just as long as there is mutual consent and lawful publically filed liability for support and damages – man I can only imagine your alimony payments after divorcing the football team.

    The bottom line is all these things should bear no legal restriction or penalty – only the lawful obligation that they harm no one. As a matter of living in an evolved and civil society, just because something is legal doesn’t mean it isn’t morally wrong, or stupid or self-destructive – these things can, and should not, be legislated against – as long as the moral leper, the fool or self-destructive dupe is yourself and your actions harm no one but yourself. Be as free as you want just remember there are personal consequences for poor judgement and lawful stricture for harming others with your poor judgement.

    THAT ideology is neither left nor right, it is the pith and substance of common law – conservative fathers of confederation insisted Canada be constituted as a common law jurisdiction. The common law is where Canadians find the vast civil freedom which eludes Americans whose constitution guarantees republican equality and constitutionally limits civil freedom to what is enumerated in the bill of rights.

  7. Neil Carter says:

    From what I’ve seen on TV, the majority of Americans already have healthcare, either private, or through their employer.
    If a person wishes to have no healthcare plan, he or she was completely free (a big word in America) to go without.
    Smart plan, really: when that citizen requires health care, he or she can arrive at a hospital emergency entrance and get full care…because that’s what medical people do.
    Said citizen gets the care for “free” (that important word again), except that those Americans who have paid for insurance are, through inflated fees, paying for the non-payer’s treatments. How is that fair?
    The government has the option to sue these non-payers into the ground, but what costs will be recovered if the non-payer claims bankruptcy?
    In my opinion, the fines proposed are a joke. The non-payers should be singled out and forced to pay for regular health insurance…or sign a waiver that he/she is to be refused medical help, period.

  8. Levon says:

    In a free country, shouldn’t we be free to make our own decisions?

    USA Healthcare Act
    You sound very tea baggy to me Mr Lilley. Who is going to pay for your health care if you choose not to? Ummm how about me the tax payer. So your “freedom to choose” just cost the rest of us cash. Sorry not going to happen anymore. Now the freeloaders will have to take care of themselves. That’s where the penalty/tax comes in.

    If you can afford to and buy PRIVATE INSURANCE, you get a tax break.
    If you don’t, you pay a tax.
    If you can’t afford it, the government will help you buy it from a PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANY.

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