Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote upholding ObamaCare's massive expansion of federal power. While four of the justices would have thrown out the law in its entirety, Roberts joined with the liberal wing of the Court to uphold the mandate as a tax.
The Court rejected the government's chief argument: that Congress can force you to buy goods or services because they have the power to regulate interstate commerce. As the Chief Justice wrote, such mandates do not "regulate existing commercial activity," but instead "compel individuals to become active in commerce." You'd think that would spell doom for ObamaCare. Instead, the Court upheld ObamaCare under the taxing power, writing that the penalty for refusing to buy health insurance was nothing more than "a tax on those who go without insurance."
This, of course, challenges nearly a century of constitutional law that creates a clear line between taxes and penalties. The Court has long recognized that taxes are levied for the primary purpose of raising revenues, while penalties are levied to regulate conduct. Because penalties are aimed at regulating conduct, they're generally considered unconstitutional unless Congress can regulate the activity directly.
But Roberts' opinion glosses over this well-established rule, even as it notes that the penalty was "plainly designed" to compel people to buy health insurance. This decision gives the federal government virtually unlimited powers to tell people what they must do or buy, so long as they enforce that command with a penalty for failing to do or buy what they tell you.
The Court's decision is disappointing. But most Americans believe the law is unconstitutional and should be repealed. Although other provisions are already being challenged in federal court, now more than ever, we need states to take the lead and protect taxpayers and consumers from this overreaching law. It's time to put progress ahead of politics. We can do better. It's time to replace ObamaCare with a patient-centered approach that can deliver real results to the American people.
Real reform reduces barriers to individual ownership of insurance policies. Real reform reduces unnecessary mandates that prevent consumers from customizing health policies to meet their specific, personal needs. Real reform permits interstate and regional purchasing of health insurance to allow for greater choice and competition. Real reform transforms Medicaid from a failing program into one that provides true health care coverage by offering premium assistance to the poor. Real reform eliminates unnecessary scope of practice and certificate of need laws. And real reform reduces defensive medicine costs through substantial reforms to tort liability laws.
We can do better than ObamaCare's unaffordable and irresponsible one-size-fits-all model. It's time for states to lead by being laboratories of innovation. And it's time for the federal government to give patients and their doctors full control over their personal health care decisions.