President Obama's prodigious flip-flop on the efficacy his signature health care law's individual mandate sits atop the list of his numerous "Etch-a-Sketch"-style political gyrations. During the 2008 campaign, he vehemently opposed Hillary Clinton's reform plan because of its inclusion of mandate. Four years later, his administration is in court defending the precise policy he opposed. This was not a minor or superficial distinction between Obama and his former Democratic rival; it was one of the brightest lines Obama drew to separate the two campaigns' (relatively similar) approaches to government expansionism. As this Buzzfeed video demonstrates, this was a point candidate Obama hammered over and over again:
How interesting. Candidate Obama loathed the individual mandate, decried it as unfair, predicted it wouldn't solve the problem, and cited Romneycare to prove his point. Today, his administration is doggedly contending the opposite. They say it's reasonable, Constitutional, and based on Romneycare -- an unsubtle gambit to damage their likely general election opponent. The problem with the mandate, 2008 Obama argued, is that it would punish people who are already suffering without bringing down the cost of health insurance, which he (correctly) identified as the underlying issue. Since his mandate-reliant law passed, premiums have shot up and overall healthcare spending has increased. In other words, 2008 Barack Obama was right. Another point that Obama made during the Democratic primary debates was the supposed epidemic of people simply choosing not to obtain coverage was largely fiction. "My core belief is that people desperately want coverage," he said. While that's certainly true of the several million Americans who have struggled to secure adequate health insurance, millions more really were making a choice not to buy insurance -- or not enrolling in government health programs for which they were already eligible:
(1) The Census Bureau itself says that “Health insurance coverage is likely to be underreported…” (See Appendix C of THIS report) For example, “16.9 percent of people with an MSIS record indicating Medicaid coverage reported…that they were uninsured.”
(2) According to Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, “as many as 12 million uninsured Americans are eligible for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program–but they haven’t signed up.”
(3) More than half of the uninsured are between 18 and 34 years of age, a group which has relatively few expensive health issues and for whom self-insuring (paying their own medical bills) makes sense. Only 14% of people over the age of 55% are uninsured.
(4) Over 9 million of the “uninsured” have household incomes over $75,000.
All of these people, plus illegal immigrants, were rolled into one giant, scary-sounding number (46 million) of uninsured Americans as part of the administration's disingenuous sales pitch to the public. As for the president's epic mandate reversal, Karl Rove's American Crossroads group exploits his double talk in a new web ad:
This is a cute video that underscores Obama's willingness to trash his "core beliefs" for purposes of expediency, but it's not especially relevant to the Supreme Court case. The nine justices are not interested in whether the president reneged on a campaign promise, or whether his relatively recent embrace of the mandate is bad politics. Still, it's a nice bit of further toxifying an already-radioactive political position. After all, American Crossroads' audience isn't a handful of robed jurists; it's the American people. That being said, another bit of Obama flip-floppery is being considered at the High Court today. As Kate Hicks reports, the question of whether the individual mandate constitutes a tax is up first on SCOTUS' agenda. Throughout the run-up to legislative passage, Democrats argued that the mandate was not a tax. The president scoffed at and rejected the notion in a memorable interview with George Stephanopolous. Once the law was passed, the adminstration changed course. In the early rounds of the Obamacare legal fight, Obama's lawyers argued that the mandate was a tax, after all, and therefore Constitutionally justified. Having been roundly slapped down, even in otherwise friendly lower court decisions, the adminstration has now flopped back to its initial position.
I'll leave you with three surveys. Two new polls indicate majority public support for Obamacare repeal and confirm the public's enduring distaste over the individual mandate. Finally, a national survey of doctors shows that a significant majority view Obamacare as detrimental to patient care, and 43 percent of American doctors are speeding up their retirement timeline because of the new law. This reinforces a major worry of Obamacare opponents: That it will fuel a doctor shortage, especially among general practitioners. Therefore, even though most Americans will be "covered," their access to timely, quality care will be diminished.