Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Congressional malfeasance in the pursuit
of health care reform

Commentary by James H. Shott

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, private meetings in the back rooms of the Capitol, murky obfuscation, misleading statements and outright mistruths, and other varieties of objectionable behavior, the Speaker of the House of Representatives finally maneuvered the enormously expensive and power-grabbing health care reform bill through to passage by a thin 220-215 vote.

True, the exuberance displayed when the 218th vote was cast, marking passage, was untoward, but the majority party seemed not to care. And surely they were joking when they claimed a lone Republican “aye” vote made the effort “bi-partisan.”

Nancy Pelosi’s health bill (H.R. 3962) is 1,990 pages – four reams of paper long, stands about a foot high and weighs more than 20 pounds. It is so long and complex that no one understands it and hardly any of the lawmakers had read it. None of which stopped them from passing it, of course. This sort of irresponsible behavior would get a lot of people fired, but not our elected representatives.

However, in defense of the gargantuan size of the bill, a measure with fewer pages would be insufficient to contain the entire collection of nightmarish features of this unconstitutional power grab.

The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier this month, “What the Pelosi Health-Care Bill Really Says,” that tells the public what the House leadership would not tell us. It was written by Betsy McCaughey, chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, and a former Lt. Governor of New York State.

From the article: Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a "qualified plan" covers and how much you'll be legally required to pay for it. That's like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later. Payments for most individuals will range somewhere between 17 and 20 percent of their pre-tax income, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Sec. 303 (pp. 167-168) makes it clear that, although the "qualified plan" is not yet designed, it will be of the "one size fits all" variety. The bill claims to offer choice—basic, enhanced and premium levels—but the benefits are the same. Only the co-pays and deductibles differ. You will have to enroll in the same plan, whether the government is paying for it or you and your employer are footing the bill.

Sec. 1302 (pp. 672-692) moves Medicare from a fee-for-service payment system, in which patients choose which doctors to see and doctors are paid for each service they provide, toward what's called a "medical home," which the Congressional Budget Office said were likely to resemble the unpopular gatekeepers of 20 years ago, if cost control is a priority, and it will be.

It gets worse.

A letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to Michigan Republican Dave Camp, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, confirmed that failure to buy health insurance makes you a criminal: “Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:

“Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.

“Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.”

It is difficult to imagine people who call themselves Americans putting criminal penalties in a health care bill, or voting for such a bill. And it’s difficult to understand people who call themselves Americans supporting such outrageous and anti-American notions, even if they favor health care reform.

Whether or not these command-and-control measures are part of whatever bill Congress ultimately passes, if it passes one, it should anger every true American – Democrat, Republican and politically non-aligned alike – that such treachery would even be considered.

It has yet to be shown where in the United States Constitution the Congress, the President or anyone else has the power to take over the country’s health care system, or to mandate that citizens buy anything. And what’s worse, Congress seems totally unconcerned about constitutionality.

Forcing people to buy an expensive insurance policy they can’t read until long after they’ve been forced to buy it, then making criminals out of them if they don’t comply is reminiscent of the sort of heavy-handed oppression foisted on the Colonies by King George III.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking to The Heritage Foundation's President's Club last week, said that the government structure designed by the Founding Fathers is the most unique and powerful feature of our Constitution, the element that sets it above other governing documents.

The Constitution's limits on government power, he emphasized, ensure that the protections of the Bill of Rights are honored. Even the Soviet Union had a robust bill of rights, he said, but since the rest of the USSR's constitution placed no limits on government powers, the bill of rights was essentially meaningless. Our Constitution is different, Justice Scalia said.

But our elected representatives no longer recognize or honor its authority.

Cross-posted from Observations

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