Ask any 10 voters what motivated them to go to the polls, and you'll probably get 10 different answers. Taxes, unemployment, government spending -- Americans had a lot on their minds as they approached the ballot box.
But one issue continues to surface, the more voters you talk to: health care. More than perhaps any other single issue, the law Congress passed last spring transferring vast new powers to Washington bureaucrats -- and out of the hands of patients and families -- galvanized many concerned Americans.
Survey after survey shows that Americans oppose "Obamacare" and want to see it repealed. In a new Gallup poll, for example, opponents of the law outnumber supporters more than 2 to 1: 42 percent said it went too far, while 20 percent said it was "just right." A recent Rasmussen poll found that 53 percent of likely voters favor repeal.
Some lawmakers, in an effort to create a compromise that appeases both sides, may recommend fixing the law. According to many health care experts, however, this isn't an option. According to Nina Owcharenko of The Heritage Foundation, market-based health care reform can't be built on the foundation of Obamacare. A massive system of central planning is, she says, utterly incompatible with real health care reform based on personal choice and free markets.
It's beyond fixing, frankly. The mandates, the taxes and the micromanagement embedded in the health care law make it virtually impossible to reform.
But, supporters assured us as the law was passed, 32 million people will gain the right to health insurance. Yet half of that coverage comes from placing at least 16 million more Americans into Medicaid, an unpopular and overextended welfare program that already rations care. Here come more taxes! No wonder opposition to the law proved to be so strong. And no wonder more than 30 states, in the aftermath of its passage, took steps to challenge various aspects of Obamacare.
And then there's the not-so-little question of whether it's even constitutional to require that every American purchase health insurance or face a steep penalty.
Full repeal is the best and most sensible solution. But can it be done? Sure, the political will is there, especially among the incoming freshmen of the 112th Congress. Yet it's obvious that President Obama would whip out his veto pen in a moment if that happened. So how can Congress carry out the wishes of the American people?
There are several steps lawmakers can take short of full repeal. Perhaps the most straightforward is to simply not fund key provisions of the law. Use the Boland Amendment of the 1980s as a guide. Congressional appropriators can add basic language to future legislation that says something like: "No funds appropriated herein shall be used for ..." and spell out whatever provision they wish to address.
Another way to block Obamacare: use legislative triggers to stop or delay certain provisions from taking effect. Take advantage of the Congressional Review Act, for example, which allows Congress to halt onerous rules and regulations before they can harm sectors of the economy.
Stopping Obamacare, however, is only half the battle. Genuine health care reform is needed. It's time, Owcharenko writes, to "put the country on the right path toward market-based health care change that gives people better choices and allows them to control their health care dollars -- and to compel health plans and providers to deliver high quality care at competitive prices."
That means, among other things, providing tax relief to all individuals to buy the insurance that they want, no matter where they work. It means eliminating legal barriers that prevent Americans from buying health plans across state lines, encouraging new group-purchasing arrangements, and improving consumer-directed options such as health savings accounts.
In short, it means putting Americans in charge of their own health care. Full repeal is the only prescription that makes sense.
(Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation, www.heritage.org.)