Burn Your Obamacare Card

Resist compulsory coverage.

Let’s all burn our ‘Obamacare’ cards.

Last week, the Obama administration was forced by industry pressure to delay the health care law’s employer mandate. It’s a sign the time is ripe for Americans to rise up and exert popular pressure to delay the law’s other major mandate: the one on them as individuals.

Starting six months from now, the individual mandate will take effect. Most Americans will be required to show proof of ‘acceptable’ insurance coverage, as defined by Washington — in effect, a health care draft card.

Like compulsory military service, the health care draft will conscript private citizens to carry out a national goal dictated by Washington, and the burden will fall especially hard on young people.

Why a ‘draft’? Supposedly, it’s to help the uninsured, but this makes little sense. There are less coercive, less expensive ways to help the uninsured — for example, by reducing distorting subsidies and red tape.

With the new system’s top-down, centralized approach, there will be higher costs, longer wait times, and incentives for doctors and hospitals to scrimp on care. The ‘health care draft’ is unjust, unnecessary and harmful to our health.

It also happens to be the system’s linchpin. Without premium payments by millions of young adults under 40, Obamacare can’t work. Younger Americans make up the bulk of the uninsured today because health insurance simply costs too much relative to their needs. If they don’t obey the mandate, premiums will be higher than expected in the new government ‘exchanges,’ people will be driven away, and a vicious cycle will set in, ending in the scheme’s failure.

This suggests an opportunity. If all of us, especially millennials, were to become health care draft resisters, we could hasten Obamacare’s inevitable collapse and pave the way for a patient-centered system.

It’s not against the law to ignore the mandate or to buy coverage that doesn’t fully conform to the law’s myriad micromanaging rules. That’s right, we can resist the draft in good conscience, without risking jail time or significant fines.

Under Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we’re required to certify on our yearly tax return whether we have ‘acceptable’ coverage. However, the Internal Revenue Service is forbidden to use any penalty to enforce the mandate, except for a user-fee payment, which the IRS can only collect at the end of the year out of any tax refund we may be owed. This means we can simply sidestep the fee by carefully adjusting our withholdings to avoid being owed a refund. As for the amount, it’s comparatively small: in 2014, just $95, or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, rising to $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016 and thereafter. It’s a pittance compared to the cost of compliance.

So what, then, does ‘burning one’s Obamacare card’ mean? It means this: If you’re uninsured — stay uninsured. If you can afford to become uninsured — do so. After all, you can sign up for coverage after you get sick, thanks to the new law.

Not comfortable with being uninsured? No worries. You can still take a bold stand and preserve your freedom by taking the four steps I call ‘peaceful non-compliance’:

1) Go outside of the ‘exchange’ and buy a high-quality, high-deductible health plan that meets your needs.

2) Pay cash for routine medical expenses.

3) Open a Health Savings Account, which allows you to pay for care with pre-tax dollars (and if you can, make the maximum allowable contribution each year).

4) Consider supplementing your insurance with critical illness coverage, which pays a lump sum in case of a specific diagnosis.

Are you too risk-averse even for that? Then by all means, obey the health care draft. Don’t complain, though, when your coverage costs more and more each year, and covers less and less. (Recent reports reveal some employers are already cooking up legally compliant ‘skinny’ plans that don’t cover hospital stays.) Don’t be surprised if your coverage disappears altogether because your employer found it cheaper to pay the fine.

The false promises of government offer false security.

But wait. Don’t we have a ‘patriotic duty’ to obey the law? Decide for yourself:

The secretary of Health and Human Services has granted more than 2,000 waivers from certain Obamacare provisions to politically connected labor unions, corporations and state governments.

Tens of millions of Americans are statutorily exempted from the mandate, including prisoners, illegal immigrants, certain religious sects, Native Americans, Americans living overseas, Americans who don’t have to file a tax return, and any American granted ‘hardship’ status at the Health and Human Services secretary’s discretion.

Politico reports that Congress has been quietly looking for ways to give itself special relief from the law — the same law it foisted on the rest of us.

How ‘patriotic’ of them.

Let’s all stop being played for suckers. Let’s all stand up for our freedom. Let’s resist the health care draft.

Let’s burn our Obamacare cards.

Dean Clancy, a former senior official in Congress and the White House, writes on U.S. health reform, budget, and constitutional issues. Follow him at deanclancy.com or on twitter @deanclancy.

[Originally published at washingtontimes.com, July 10, 2013. @WashTimes. Republished at deanclancy.com.]

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