Health care reform has to wait while legal issues are sorted out

President Barack Obama’s signature legislative “achievement” is deeper in legal limbo now that U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson struck down as unconstitutional the central component requiring individuals to buy health insurance.

How important is this mandate to Obama’s health care reform law?

“Without an individual responsibility provision [or mandate], controlling costs and ending discrimination against people with preexisting conditions doesn’t work,” Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in an editorial published in the Washington Post.

Virtually everyone agrees the constitutional challenges are destined for the U.S. Supreme Court a year or two from now. Congress cannot afford to wait until then. It must impose an immediate moratorium on Obamacare now, until the weighty constitutional concerns at issue are resolved in the courts.

As it stands, many of the supposed “benefits” of Obamacare’s individual mandate and other provisions will not be realized until 2014. And yet, American health care consumers and taxpayers are already experiencing significant financial pains through skyrocketing premiums and phased-in taxes that began this year and will cost $502 billion over the next 10 years.

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that health insurers have been forced to raise premiums “as a direct result of the health overhaul.”

Of course, it was not supposed to be this way. Obamacare was going to reduce premiums, not raise them. That is what the president pitched to insurance providers, who were highly concerned about the fallout of higher premiums on their customer base.

The principle justification for the president’s claim regarding shrinking premiums depended upon an expanded insurance market that would result from the individual mandate. Instead, the law has had the opposite effect.

Meanwhile, more than 700 companies and politically connected unions threatened to drop their health care coverage for employees if they did not receive a reprieve from the law.

Obama’s claims about his health reform law were bold. But the law has only roiled the health insurance market and lent uncertainty to many Americans’ health care.

Congress should declare a moratorium on Obamacare until the courts can settle the issue of its linchpin, the individual mandate. Even supporters of Obamacare, perhaps even Obama himself, might concede that the law will not work as intended until the courts settle the core constitutional issues.

Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan educational foundation that fights government corruption.

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