“Party of Ideas” Strikes Again: Rep. Tom Price’s Health Care Bill One Socialist, Anti-Federalist Mess

It’s totally not true that the GOP has neither proposed nor thought about alternative solutions to America’s health care crisis. Why, there’s an entire page of Republican bills, languishing without the party’s support!

But seriously folks, Representative Tom Price (R-GA), representing Newt Gingrich’s old district, took a break from calling health care reform “tyranny” to write his very own piece of tyrannical health care legislation. The problem? It bites all his party’s “best,” most alarmist arguments.

Price’s bill takes the form, predominantly, of a tax credit — rather than offering government-sponsored coverage, the bill provides tax breaks to persons buying health care plans that comply with specific requirements (§ 101 et sequens), and permits providers to sell across state lines (§ 301).

It’s no secret that Republicans love tax breaks. That’s part of the reason we’re in this financial mess. It may surprise, though, that these tax breaks would be doled out to promote a specific, partisan social agenda. Don’t miss § 105:

SEC. 105. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.

No funds authorized under this Act (or any amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of forcible rape or incest.

That’s right — Price’s bill wouldn’t pay for your health insurance if you, or your spouse, wanted even the possibility of having an abortion. Rep. Price may abhor the thought of nameless, faceless bureaucrats standing between doctors and their patients, but, apparently, he’s quite fine with identified conservative politicians deciding what’s best for your family’s health. Consider this one more reminder that Republican’s aren’t against the government interfering in your life: they’re against the government interfering in your life in a way that differs from their agenda-driven vision for America.

Turn next to Title V, which implements the Republican Party’s #1 health care priority — tort reform. Price’s bill purports to redefine the elements and burdens in a medical malpractice suit, for all law suits, filed by all plaintiffs, against all defendants, in all courts, nationwide:

SEC. 512. APPLICABILITY; EFFECTIVE DATE.

The previous provisions of this title shall apply to any health care lawsuit brought in a Federal or State court, or subject to an alternative dispute resolution system, that is initiated on or after the date of the enactment of this title, except that any health care lawsuit arising from an injury occurring prior to the date of the enactment of this title shall be governed by the applicable statute of limitations provisions in effect at the time the injury occurred.

This may sound like nothing out of the ordinary. After all, Congress’ job is to make law, right? True. But tort law is historically the province of state governments. Under the Constitution, the states retain the “police power” — the ability to regulate citizens’ health and safety — except where problems to be regulated present a federal issue. Price’s bill goes on to argue that health care impacts interstate commerce, therefore coming within Congress’ regulatory power under Art. II, § 8, cl. 3:

SEC. 502. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.
(2) EFFECT ON INTERSTATE COMMERCE.—

Congress finds that the health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce and the health care liability litigation systems existing throughout the United States are activities that affect interstate commerce by contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care system providers.

Price is probably right. As we’ve argued before, health care costs spill over across state lines, and consequentially affect both interestate commerce and other federal programs. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the interpretation of the Commerce Clause that Price endorses in this section runs directly contrary to the Republican party line on the clause. Just ask Tim Pawlenty, presidential candidate.

The deep magic animating the Republican Party is, undoubtedly, its aptitude at framing divisive social programs as uncontroversial valence issues. They’re not opposed to constitutional notions of due process — they’re Tough on Crime, and for a Strong National Defense. They’re not belligerent, and bitterly skeptical of dissent — they’re Patriotic. They’re not stuck in a hopelessly outdated, nineteenth-century conception of social relations — they’re Pro-Family.

And top-down federal programs with an eye towards social policy? Well, they voted against it, before they voted for it.

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