Is Obamacare a good law?
Setting aside the evaluation of its impact on the affordability and expansion of health care, the law itself looks like a sorry intruder on rule of law. A recent Cato article by Christina and Timothy Sandefur explains the problem:
“With its many expansions of administrative authority, its unpredictable interpretation by the courts, its arbitrary enforcement, and even the very means by which Congress chose to pass it, the act represents a pervasive disrespect for the concept of the rule of law.”
The whole designation of the individual mandate as a tax is one problem. Sometimes it is defined as a tax, as when it was upheld by the Supreme Court; other times it is not. Not only do the terms in the law seem to shift, but the bill opens the door to bureaucracies making rules as they go. Many out workings of the law are left to be decided by administrative agencies, or possibly even a single individual.
The Sandefurs note that the IRS even changed rules itself along the way. After many states refused to participate in the creation of health insurance exchanges, which would subject them to certain penalties, the IRS decided to extend those penalties even to the states without exchanges.
The Sandefur’s quotation from James Madison’s Federalist #62 is appropriate:
“it will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”
Physical health aside, are laws with vague definitions and arbitrary make-rules-as-you-go systems good for the health our country? Are these characteristics that should be considered for all laws under debate?
>>Source: Sandefur, Christina and Timothy. “PPACA’s Corrupting Lawlessness.” Regulation. Cato Institute. Winter 2013-2014.