If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate to buy health insurance, conservatives and Tea Party members will be dancing in the streets, but it may be a victory in disguise for progressives who want to preserve endangered social programs, and it may help President Obama win reelection.
The individual mandate is part of a deal struck with health insurance companies to expand coverage to all Americans under the Affordable Care Act. In return for more customers, insurance companies have to stop denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and ending coverage if people get sick. What’s important for us to remember: The individual mandate was an idea hatched at the conservative Heritage Foundation. One could even say that the individual mandate is a conservative Trojan horse. It has been, and remains, the cornerstone of Republican/corporatist plans to privatize public programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
The best way for the government to provide universal health care is to provide the service directly to everyone and fund it through a more fair and equitable tax system. In other words, we would have a single payer system similar to what the rest of the developed world has. The other option is to create an individual mandate forcing everyone to buy health insurance from private corporations and have the government subsidize the cost. In this health care scenario, we include useless middlemen who skim off a profit causing higher costs for both individuals and the government.
The conservative plan to unravel the social programs using individual mandates
Rep. Paul Ryan and the GOP want to replace Social Security with an individual mandate to buy private retirement accounts. They could do the same for Social Security disability by mandating that we all buy private disability insurance. Conservatives plan to use individual mandates to destroy Medicare by mandating that everyone over retirement age use vouchers to buy their own private health insurance. They could do the same with unemployment insurance. And, of course, they want to eliminate our public school system by replacing it with vouchers, mandating that everyone buy their education from private schools.
If the Supreme Court rules against the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, it will also be declaring that it is illegal to replace public programs with mandated private systems, and that’s a good thing. It will drive a stake in the heart of the relentless efforts of conservatives to privatize anything they can get their hands on. Will this reflect badly on President Obama? I don’t think so. The individual mandate has never been popular, and during his last campaign, even the president was against it. The good news? If the individual mandate is off the table, it will be one less thing the GOP can run on. Given they don’t have much to offer the American people, this can only help President Obama’s campaign for his second term.
What will happen to the good aspects of the Affordable Care Act, like the ending of pre-existing conditions and the national exchanges? I don’t know, but it is only a matter of time before the United States moves to Medicare for all. Perhaps the demise of the individual mandate to buy private insurance will hasten that inevitability.