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Effect of Affordable Care Act leaves ample room for debate

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, the topic of guaranteed health care for all Americans kept bobbing to the surface over and over again.

Each time, I asked myself, “Who is going to pay for this?” We got our answer last Thursday.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was found to be legal by the Supreme Court. It’s protected by the Constitution because it falls under Congress’ ability to tax us.

Where to begin?

National Restaurant Association President Dawn Sweeney said the law should be repealed because it leaves the restaurant industry “saddled with excessive costs and regulatory burdens that threaten their very business.”

Stephen Caldeira of the International Franchise Association said, “By upholding the law, 3.2 million jobs at franchise businesses continue to be put at risk due to the employer mandate provision.”

Chief Justice John Roberts baffled conservatives by siding with four fellow jurists seen as more liberal in their interpretations. Yet he must have seen the backlash on the horizon when he wrote the following: “The court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.

“Simply put, Congress may tax and spend,” Roberts wrote. “The federal government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid or otherwise control.”

The National Federation of Independent Business was one of the first organizations to publically oppose the act. It is a grass-roots group that has led many large-scale efforts on behalf of small enterprises that don’t have the time or resources to fend for themselves.

“This case was about something bigger than health care policy, it was about preserving American liberty from the increasingly powerful hand of the

federal government,” the NFIB said Thursday on its website.

“Health care decisions should be in the hands of the consumer, not the government,” said NFIB President Dan Danner. I could not agree more.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month unveiled his plan

to replace the Affordable Care Act with a new health care program that emphasizes tax breaks to small businesses. Romney wants to repeal the mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance by 2014 and instead ask states to continue to serve uninsured people’s health needs. He said he would create tax incentives for individuals and small businesses to purchase or provide health insurance.

This is a far cry from what the Supreme Court defined as a tax - a massive new tax during one of the worst economic periods in the country since the

Great Depression. There are also festering questions about whether or not the decision expands the power of the federal government. The Supreme Court is all about precedent.

Romney emphasized he would keep several portions of Obama’s current plan, including guaranteeing that people with pre-existing health conditions would be able to purchase insurance.

There is no information on the table regarding the penalty that will be assessed on those who do not have health insurance beginning in 2014. As the Buffalo News wrote, “The Obama administration has resisted calling that penalty a tax, but to the court majority, that’s clearly what it is.”

Companies with 50 workers or more will be required to offer insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, according to the Wall Street Journal. That will drive up the cost of doing business. I wonder how many companies will pay the fine because it will be less expensive than providing insurance – thus defeating the purpose of the act.

It is an offensive, expensive asterisk on our personal freedom and ability to decide what’s best for us.

“If Congress wants to mandate people to eat right, exercise, say their prayers at night, would it be constitutional if Congress taxes people for not complying?” asked Stephen Moore in an opinion column published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal. Our health care system is in need of improvement, but now it comes with a new burden as standard equipment.


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