• WisBusiness

Monday, December 13, 2010

No-choice health insurance? Not the American way


By Dan Danner
“People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it.”

With those words, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson cleared the way recently for the National Federation of Independent Business and 20 states to challenge the constitutionality of President Obama’s sweeping health reform law, a program that has the potential to choke one of the nation’s most important economic engines: small business.

On Dec. 16, NFIB and its co-plaintiffs will argue in federal court that the White House’s so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act denies Americans choice and must be repealed

At the heart of this challenge is a blatant grab for power by the federal government. By demanding that all Americans buy a congressionally-dictated type of health insurance whether they want to or not, the law runs afoul of the basic tenets of liberty.

Calling the mandate to purchase insurance an “unprecedented form of federal action,” Vinson noted in his ruling that people must either comply or be penalized. “It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive.”

Not exactly the American Way is it? For millions of small-business owners, this mandate is a denial of their ability to own, operate and expand their small businesses as they choose. It also is a thinly-veiled trick to divert their cash to pay for a government program that will, like virtually all other federal efforts, deliver less than needed at costs higher than predicted.

If Uncle Sam can force Americans to fork over their shrinking dollars for health insurance, what’s to stop the government from forcing us to buy GM-manufactured automobiles? Or certificates of deposit from one of the bailed out banks?

NFIB will argue that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution does not give Congress the power to force anyone to purchase anything. Another White House in 1994 attempted to saddle small business with a similar mandated health ploy and failed. Even the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office noted the breadth of this new law, saying: “The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”

Should Judge Vinson agree with the small-business community that the individual mandate has no constitutional support, he might also overturn the entire health law due to a technical oversight by Congress.

Regardless, small-business owners are adamant about having the ability to choose their health coverage. They overwhelmingly urge NFIB to aggressively fight this anti-free enterprise law. We are steadfast in pushing for legislative repeal, and have been working to convince government regulators to improve sections harmful to small businesses.

Today, the United States is deeply in debt, our government is distracted and the economy is in a mess. Sound familiar? It’s almost the same as in 1787 when a band of revolutionaries made their choice to seek freedom, put their collective wisdom together and wrote “We the People of the United States…”

The people have choice. It’s guaranteed in the Constitution.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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