States fight Obamacare
Opposition to the new health reform law is continuing to grow in the states – just as Congress prepares for its final pre-election legislative session.
Colorado, for instance, just placed an initiative on the ballot that would, if passed, block many aspects of Obamacare – including the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance. A similar measure was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Missouri last month. And several states recently announced that they don’t believe they have the authority to enforce the new law.
With actions like these, the message to Washington is clear: If Congress doesn’t repeal Obamacare, the states just might do it themselves.
The health reform law remains unpopular. The August Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that 45 percent of Americans disapprove of the new law. Among likely voters, the numbers are even worse. The most recent Rasmussen Reports survey found that 56 percent favor repealing health care reform. State officials across the country have heard their constituents – and acted accordingly. This fall, voters in Arizona and Oklahoma will consider ballot initiatives similar to the ones in Colorado and Missouri. Lawmakers in Florida tried to put a measure invalidating the individual mandate on the ballot, but their effort was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
These measures have an excellent chance of passing. In Colorado, for instance, 61 percent of likely voters want to repeal health reform; 48 percent strongly so. Individual governors have challenged Obamacare as well. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty just announced that he’d block his state from participating in any discretionary aspects of the health reform law. Pawlenty has maintained that Minnesota cannot afford to match the funds provided by the federal government for Medicaid expansion, as Obamacare intends.
Even states with Democratic governors have expressed pessimism about complying with the law. Michigan and Oklahoma, for instance, have both stated that they do not currently have the authority to implement Obamacare. California – not exactly a bastion of opposition to President Obama – has said that it may not be able to enforce the law.
The states are pushing back against the feds for two primary reasons. First, Obamacare will saddle public and private payers alike with huge new costs at a time when most are still struggling to recover from the recession – which may not even be over yet. Second, the health reform law will dramatically curtail individual freedom and force people to comply with Washington’s dictates on what constitutes “acceptable” health insurance.
Obamacare is like an iceberg. The federal government’s tab is merely the observable tip. The bulk of the costs – to individuals, businesses and the states – are hidden.
For example, insurers’ administrative costs will rise as they rewrite their policies in accordance with Congress’s whims. Obamacare has tried to forcibly limit the amount that insurers can spend on administration by requiring them to devote 85 percent of premiums collected from large employers to paying for medical care. Predictably, this rule has spawned a fight over the definition of medical care.
And then there are the costs borne by individuals. State officials are being forced to spend local tax dollars to set up such new institutions as appeals tribunals for reviewing insurance rates. Employers are forcing their employees to pony up more cash for their health benefits in response to the higher insurance bills they’re receiving from their carriers.
Less quantifiable – but no less important – is the hit to Americans’ individual liberty. Most Americans will lose their current health plans once they come up for renewal, despite President Obama’s promises to the contrary. And in 2011, they’ll face a barrage of new taxes and fees needed to fund all the programs created by the law. By fighting back against Obamacare, state lawmakers are simply executing the will of their constituents. This November, voters may force Congress to jump on the bandwagon too.
Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her new book, “The Truth About Obamacare” (Regnery), was released in August.