This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court held three days of hearings on the constitutionality of President Obama’s landmark legislation, the “Affordable Care Act (ACA),” and its federal health care mandate. At the heart of the argument before the Court is the law’s individual mandate that requires every American to buy health insurance.
Key questions by Court justices made clear how much of an overreach the ACA is. Chief Justice Roberts asked, “So can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are?” Justice Scalia asked if the government could require Americans to buy gym memberships saying, “…everybody has to exercise, because there's no doubt that lack of exercise cause -- causes illness, and that causes health care costs to go up. So the federal government says everybody has to -- to join a -- an exercise club."
These questions and many others frame the case well. The individual mandate is unprecedented and among the most dangerous aspects of Obamacare. If the federal government can force private citizens to buy a private product, then there is no end to what it could force citizens to do. As a healthcare provider for over 25 years, I understand the importance of a strong patient-centered care network, and I agree that America needs health care reform to lower costs, increase access, and enhance patient choice. However, these solutions rarely, if ever, come from the heavy hand of the federal government. This is why I deeply opposed the ACA, otherwise known as the government takeover of health care signed into law by President Obama in March 2010.
Upon taking office, the President and his administration made health care reform the primary domestic policy goal. Their approach however was not to seek consensus and instead was to pass a 2,700 plus page bill that not a single conservative member of the U.S. House or Senate voted for. Pelosi went so far as to say at the time ““But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”
Seated in my own dental office in Flagstaff, I realized, as did many Americans at the time, that this bill represented not only a continuation of partisan politics and the manifestation of power from the Washington bureaucracy, but also a threat to a citizen’s personal liberty. I vowed at that time that as a healthcare professional, small business owner, and father I would do all I could to repeal this bad bill, and as your congressman I have stood by that promise.
As I mentioned, the congressional mandate on American citizens to purchase health insurance is unprecedented. Under the law individuals can be fined up to 2.5% of their income or $695 dollars a year if they do not have insurance by 2014.
As James Madison stated in the Federalist Papers No. 45: “[t]he powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” If the Obama administration wins its case before the Supreme Court it would be detrimental to the sacred idea of limited federal powers. Essentially, without such limitations, the federal government could control nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives under the guise of a very broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
Sworn into office in 2011, one of my very first votes in Congress was in support of H.R. 2, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” a bill that I cosponsored, to repeal ACA completely. I have also signed on as cosponsor to a number of bills that repeal other faulty aspects of this overarching, liberty-threatening legislation. However, it is my hope to see that the Supreme Court strike down the entire law and for Congress to go back to the drawing board to find health care reform that does not invade individual liberty. Americans have spoken loud and clear: they want health care reform—but not the reforms put in place under Obamacare.