In their article “Health Care Economics 101 And The Supreme Court,” University of Michigan professors Jill Horwitz and Helen Levy argue that by intervening in the insurance market, government has the power to make healthcare uniquely efficient and affordable.
Assuming that that’s correct—and it isn’t—so what?
Horwitz and Levy contest the notion that upholding Obamacare’s individual mandate could lead to forcing people to buy broccoli or cars, as several Supreme Court Justices suggested during oral arguments in April.
They write, “[T]here are significant economic differences between health care and the list of goods the amicus brief and some of the Justices cited… [T]he market for health care is characterized by multiple and substantial departures from the assumptions of perfect competition… [A]ppropriately structured government intervention—which in this case means guaranteed issue, community rating, and an individual mandate—can actually promote efficiency, solving the problem of market failure and making the pie bigger for everyone.”
Actually, who cares? Where does it say in the Constitution that Congress can force people to do something they don’t want to, just because liberals think it will make life easier? Actually, where does the Constitution give the federal government the power of central planning for the quixotic purpose of “making the pie bigger for everyone?”
Actually, where in the Constitution may I find the “Correcting Imperfect Markets for Competition via Abridgment of Individual Liberty” clause?
Horwitz and Levy toss out the following unconnected arguments in the hope that one of them will stick: the health insurance market operates poorly; the health insurance market involves many interrelated parts, the failure of any one of which can compound failure in the others; an individual’s need for healthcare is unpredictable; the healthcare industry is high-stakes; the country is experiencing a health insurance crisis.
Not one of these reasons compensates for the constitutional violation of forcing people to purchase a product on the private market against their will.
Obviously the health care market differs from the market for broccoli or cars—though it’s not uniquely different from other markets that we don’t allow the federal government to take over.
All laws vary widely in their outcomes when applied to different referents. The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, could yield different consequences if applied to a pastor’s suburban home vs. a drug-infested housing project.
One could argue that government should be able to randomly invade run-down apartments in gang-infested inner cities, since the likelihood of finding illegal weapons, drug paraphernalia, or evidence of other crimes is much greater there. One might say that such a law “can actually promote efficiency” in law enforcement.
But does the principle prohibiting government from wantonly entering private homes without a warrant and poking around apply universally, or doesn’t it? If it applies universally, then it applies whether we’re talking about split-levels or slums.
Similarly, there may be compelling reasons, from a pure efficiency standpoint, for government to intervene in the healthcare market. (There aren’t, but bear with me.) That the government could make healthcare so much more superior doesn’t justify forcing people to buy insurance policies they don’t want or forcing policies on them that mitigate more risk than they’d care to pay for.
And perhaps the claim that Obamacare won’t lead to mandating broccoli consumption would be more credible if liberals weren’t regularly trying to ban McDonalds’ Happy Meals, trans fats, salt, soda, popcorn, and “milk drinks.” For a perfect example of the left-wing tactic of abridging liberty while distracting the public with superfluous justifications, see Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 10-year campaign to turn New York into an antiseptic hospital ward.
When the Supreme Court overrules the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate 5-4, liberals are going to gripe about “judicial overreach” for decades, the way they’re still grumbling about Bush v. Gore. They’ll roll their eyes at anyone who’s happy the Court overturned the law and try to convince themselves that their legal argument is so much more sophisticated and forward-thinking than ours. They need to be told why they’re wrong.