Free market think tank responds to “ObamaCare” ruling, A.G. Pruitt says new reform is “up to voters”

Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), denounced Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on “ObamaCare,” saying that because “the Court has upheld key parts of this unaffordable, irresponsible, and wasteful law, it is more important than ever for Oklahoma’s political leaders to advance state-led and patient-centered reforms that help the poor, the sick, and the taxpayers.”

Small, former director of government affairs for state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, specified (in his words) these steps that the Sooner State’s policymakers should take to advance what he called “genuine reform.” His recommendations:

• Oklahoma lawmakers should move immediately to limit spending and should not expand the state’s budget-busting Medicaid program (expansion is allowed by the Affordable Care Act — ACA — but not required).
•  Lawmakers should stop raiding the Insure Oklahoma program (to the tune of more than $120 million to date) and instead should shift the emphasis in Medicaid toward getting participants onto private health insurance. “We need to empower people to escape from the Medicaid ghetto,” says Mr. Small, “and give them the dignity of having their own health insurance.”

• Lawmakers and the private sector must build state-based firewalls — such as a state-based, almost exclusively private-sector-operated insurance marketplace — to minimize the intrusion of the federal government into the insurance market in Oklahoma.
• Given the penalties for employers not providing coverage — which are more desirable than the mandate-heavy high-cost ACA plans — state lawmakers should plan to cease offering state-employee health coverage if ACA is not repealed. The penalty for not providing the coverage will be significantly less than continuing the state’s current high-cost plans.
• Policymakers should encourage transparency in medical pricing, of the sort practiced by the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
• Policymakers should equalize the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance and employer-provided insurance.
Small added, “I can attest firsthand that when politicians in Washington try to take over health care, the side effects are painful. This new middle-class tax increase — possibly the largest in American history — will only serve to do more harm to families.” 

Professor Andrew Spiropoulos of Oklahoma City University is also OCPA’s  Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow. In a statement for OCPA, sent to CapitolBeatOK, Spiropoulos said,  “While it is difficult not to be disappointed by the Court’s decision, there is a silver lining to the black cloud of state intrusion that hangs over us. The fate of the President’s scheme and our liberty now rest where they should — in our own hands and ballots. No constitution or court can save us if we are unwilling to save ourselves.”

In related news, Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt late Thursday (June 29) supplemented his initial response ( to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision, saying that now the burden for constitutional reform or replacement of “ObamaCare” lies with the American people and their elected representatives. 

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Pruitt said, “The Supreme Court agreed with our legal challenge that it is beyond the power of the federal government to require Americans to buy a private product under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Court also limited the ability of the federal government to coerce states into action by threatening to take away Medicaid funds.” 

In 2011, Pruitt’s office sued to block the federal legislation. While the Court’s legal analysis consistently found fault constitutional with the law, it ultimately upheld its major strictures. Pruitt commented: 

“Unfortunately, as Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito wrote in their dissent, the Court strained to find a way to save a tax law that Congress and President Obama went to great lengths to say was not a tax when selling this health care bill to Oklahomans and the American people. If Congress wants to pass a tax, they should pass a tax and face the potential political cost.

“It is now up to voters to fix the situation through the political process by repealing the act and replacing it with measures that address the health care crisis within the confines of the Constitution and without heavy tax burdens on Oklahoma families.”