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Saturday, Jul 14 2012 10:02 PM

PROGRESSIVE VS. CONSERVATIVE: Court's ruling on Obamacare, Commerce Clause is in the books

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    John Pryor

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By JOHN PRYOR

CONSERVATIVE: Progressives dispute the recent Supreme Court ruling on the inapplicability of the Commerce Clause to "Obamacare" -- and what, for a brief moment, was thought to be a death knell to this far-reaching federal legislation.

Conservatives dispute the court's ruling on the transformation of a "penalty" to a "tax" -- and what is now the perpetuation of Obamacare until other legislation is passed to either repeal or modify this history-making revision of our health care insurance system.

What too many of both philosophical bents fail to understand is the Supremacy Clause in our U.S. Constitution. Our federal Constitution tells us that it is the final and absolute standard against which all laws are measured. The court has now done so. Obamacare is "the supreme law of the land." (See Article VI, Clause 2.)

To argue against either or both clauses today is an exercise in futility. The matter has been resolved. The issue is settled. All state and federal court judges are mandated to follow this ruling.

Therefore, the question isn't "What did the Supreme Court do wrong?" It is: "What responsible steps should be taken next?"

Our system's ingenious separation of powers -- with its checks and balances -- may change everything. The most obvious change is total repeal of this legislation of 2,000-plus pages that few, if any, members of Congress read before voting. This is not to mention the regulations upon regulations drafted by unknown, unaccountable bureaucrats to implement this new law in all of its intricacies in our health care insurance system and in its micromanaging of our lives.

Insurance of all kinds, including medical and life insurance, is confirmed in Public Law 15 to be intrastate commerce. This means all insurance carriers are regulated at the state level and all insurance policies are written on a state-by-state basis. This wise law was passed 68 years ago.

This system has worked very well in the private sector with appropriate regulation at the state level.

The notion of being able "to cross state lines" to buy medical insurance is a red herring. Yes, insurance carriers can choose to market in those states in which their rate and coverage filings are approved and they are admitted as a carrier. They also can choose to avoid other states. As long as medical insurance is retained in the private sector -- with its focus on the patient with minimal governmental intrusion -- the system works very well.

Some have said that medicine in Missouri is the same as medicine in Massachusetts or Montana. I'm sure this is true. However, this is a classic error of being internally focused on medicine when we should be externally focused on the patient. Medicine may not see any variation from state to state; however, people and their economic, social, and delivery systems vary greatly from state to state.

This variation is the foundation of federalism -- a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority (our federal government) -- and constituent political units (our several states). Moreover, it assumes that the central government will be limited in its powers -- limited as prescribed in our U.S. Constitution to a total of only 18 powers granted to the federal government. (See Article I, Section 8.)

Health insurance is not one.

As reinforced in the 10th Amendment, all other powers are "reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." What could be more clear?

This leads to the same conclusion drawn by Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others, that "government is best which governs least."

All of the vast and costly financial, political, and philosophical issues debated and enacted at the federal level would "go away" if this portion of our federal Constitution were respected and practiced. Instead, such issues would be appropriately addressed at the state level where each is more manageable and each is more responsive to the unique needs of people in any specific state.

This would resolve our health care concerns and multiple matters in which federal government intrusion has absolutely no (constitutional) authority to be engaged.

Just think of the federal taxes that would be saved!

John Pryor of Bakersfield is a management consultant with the Cal State Bakersfield Small Business Development Center.

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