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The Speaker’s mandate: Ryan’s bill still punishes healthy young people

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Paul Ryan’s “American Health Care Act” is a betrayal to conservatives who care about their wallets and their liberty.

Republicans took control of the Senate and Presidency, and strengthened their hold in the House this year largely due to their promise to repeal Obamacare. The first bill we’ve seen which would fulfill that promise is the American Health Care Act, a bill which institutes a new, subtle, individual mandate. Ryan’s bill creates a 30 percent surcharge for people buying health insurance for the first time after they have allowed a lapse in their coverage.

The intent of this portion of the bill is obvious: to punish healthy young people for not buying into a failing system.

But how will this freedom-crushing action even be effective? Young people who take a few years to work so they can afford their own insurance will now be paying 30 percent more, even if they buy coverage at a young age. Most who can barely afford insurance to begin with just won’t get coverage. Many people will not start paying into the system until they are financially stable, or their health has begun suffering. Not only is this surcharge the 2017 model of a federal overreach, it may very well be ineffective.

The original mandate created a federal power that should make every American uncomfortable. Chief Justice Roberts admits in his opinion concerning Obamacare that the Congress has no power to regulate inaction under the commerce clause. But, he says that it is okay to increase taxes on certain individuals for those same reasons since Congress has the power to tax.

The court decided that because the penalty was only inflicted on people who pay income taxes and was adjusted based on income, it is a justifiable tax. This means the government can theoretically “tax” based on anything, including inaction, as long as the money is going to the IRS. So tomorrow, if Congress decides it is beneficial for everyone to own a bike because of their environmental and fitness benefits, they can “tax” every american who doesn’t buy a bike. Technically this isn’t a regulation or penalty, but it has the same effect.

The government has decided it can charge you money for literally doing nothing. This is unlike any other tax or fee in our country; everything from income tax to EPA regulations are based on some form of action. You are not charged income tax if you don’t make any money. You cannot be fined for polluting unless you go pollute.

But under the ACA, and now the AHCA, you can be charged for sitting in your home office and not doing anything.

Defenders of the mandate and surcharge claim that health coverage is important, and it is impossible to keep the system afloat without healthy, young people. Unfortunately for them, it is not our responsibility to save industries at government direction.

Congress does not get to choose what values the American people have. Another claim supporters make is that healthcare is a right: the mandate just protects that right for everyone. We have many rights in this country, but our government doesn’t punish us for not using them. We have the right to free speech, but if I choose not to speak out against the government, my taxes don’t go up. We have the right to bear arms, but the government is certainly not penalizing me for not owning a gun.

But some mandate-lovers would say it is a collective right, one we must share with everyone and not participating restricts that right for some members of our society. This claim goes directly against the principles of our nation. This country is built on  the freedom and rights of the individual, it is not a communist utopia where we redistribute wealth, and in this case health, for the greater good.

If healthcare was important to young Americans, the government wouldn’t have to mandate that we purchase it. The fact that older people need this more than we do is not our fault. We should be free to pay into the system and help bring prices down if we want to. But that is not a direction that should come from the government.

The GOP has gone back on a major campaign promise, and has placed their focus on the wrong part of healthcare reform. Instead of attempting to force us into a terrible health care system, conservatives should be focused on improving the health care in our country and lowering the costs. In any market in the free world industries are responsible for making their products more attractive to consumers to increase the amount of money they can bring in. They accomplish this  by improving quality and decreasing price. The government is trying to take a shortcut through this system by coercing as many people as they can to pay into this market.

But imagine if healthcare was affordable, if millennials didn’t have to choose between staying healthy fiscally and staying healthy physically, or if providers could compete without prices that are artificially high due to administrative costs and unnecessary drug prices.

If this were the goal of the Republican Party, coercion would not be necessary. They could instead offer tax breaks to those who sign up for health coverage at a young age. Instead of costing us our livelihoods, buying insurance could protect our health and save us on taxes. But instead of focusing on these clear benefits, our leaders have chosen to fall into the totalitarian trap of the left.

I believe it is time this option is taken away from them. No one believes that the founders would support a law which penalizes an American citizen for doing nothing. Even Chief Justice Roberts noted that the founders would certainly draw a distinction between action and inaction. Given the importance of taxation in the founding of this country, I assume that that distinction would extend to the tax code as well. A constitutional amendment should be proposed to express this belief. By amending Section 8 of Article 1 to read “The congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes…but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States and assessed based on actions and incomes of individuals or corporations,” we can ensure that no illegal action like the surcharge or individual mandate will ever be forced upon us again.

Our conservative leaders should stand up for our rights, our liberty, and their promises. As young conservatives we cannot be quiet about our disappointment in this new iteration of Obamacare. We cannot allow protesters at town halls to be the only voices our Congressmen here. Young people are the victims of this clear overreach, and we must make our voices heard.

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