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Obamacare is Declared Unconstitutional...What Now?

Robert Dimuro

Posted on December 16, 2018 18:28

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The principles behind what ceases to be codified law may continue to influence the very policy makers and their constituencies that fought against it.

On December 14, a federal judge declared Obamacare unconstitutional in response to a lawsuit filed by several states after tax code revisions eliminated the tax penalty for not complying with the individual mandate. Since the ruling is expected to be upheld by a majority Republican Supreme Court, Obamacare is now on its last breath. Furthermore, since Republicans no longer hold both houses of Congress, they can wipe their hands clean of any obligation to formulate practical solutions to our healthcare system that have any realistic chance of being passed.  

As the era of Obamacare comes to an end, Congress is divided between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. The timing of the ruling is perfect for Republicans, as any pressure to replace Obamacare is equally shared by Democrats. Moreover, Republicans can claim that their ideas led to Obamacare’s demise, even though Republican lawmakers failed to repeal the bill on multiple occasions. On the surface, things are looking bright on the Right side of the aisle.

However, since Republicans continue to concede the moral high ground to Democrats on the necessity of universal coverage, they have not really won on the issue of healthcare. Since the implementation of LBJ’s Great Society, Democrats have been gradually implementing universality in our healthcare system - from Medicare (universal coverage for the elderly), to Medicaid (universal coverage for the poor), to Obamacare (universal coverage for those with pre-existing conditions). Republicans have not only accepted these concepts but have also embraced them. Images of Tea Party demonstrators holding up signs with phrases, such as “Keep your hands off my Medicare,” clearly elucidate this point.  

As a result, the principles of Obamacare will outlast its implementation. Once Trump was elected president and the prospect of repealing Obamacare suddenly became possible, Republicans abandoned their bold repeal bill that had landed on Obama’s desk. Instead, all Republicans (except those in the Freedom Caucus) transformed their rhetoric - promising that nobody will be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions and that every American will have access to healthcare as a right.

This led to the chaos that ensued within the Republican ranks to agree on an acceptable alternative to Obamacare. In the end, it became clear that Republicans couldn’t “have their cake and eat it too.” They couldn’t withstand the political ramifications of a complete overhaul of Obamacare and enact the cost-lowering, choice-creating reforms that were to be a part of its replacement.

Although a federal judge accomplished overnight what Republicans in Congress couldn’t do after months of deliberation, it seems clear that future reform of our healthcare system will be driven by Democratic initiative. Republicans are unlikely to resist alternative proposals by Democrats to provide more coverage to more people. It’s also unlikely that Republicans will be able to work with Democrats to implement their own solutions in a divided Congress. Ultimately, it’s clear that, whichever party holds Congress in the foreseeable future, more government involvement and more universality will continue to infiltrate our healthcare system.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on December 16, 2018 18:28

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A federal judge’s ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional has landed like a stink bomb among Republicans, who’ve seen the...

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