By Dr. Brian Russell
With the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," I have been forced to downgrade my prognosis for the U.S. health-care system – and thus, for the U.S. in general. In a classic case of the "cure" being worse than the "disease," Obamacare will ultimately fail to solve the ailments for which it was prescribed and will simultaneously promote the development of even more dire conditions in America. And while one could simply attribute both its primary and side effects to benign misguidedness, I cannot rule out the possibility of a more accurate, more malignant attribution – to an orchestrated, graduated, insidious movement away from traditional American individualism and toward European-style collectivism.
From my perspective as a health-care professional, I predict that Obamacare will act much like a "cancer" within the body of what heretofore has been the world's best, albeit imperfect, health-care system, progressively degrading both the quality and quantity of the health care the average American receives. And from my perspective as a health-care management consultant, I predict that Obamacare will not reduce aggregate U.S. health-care costs but will instead necessitate periodic infusions of "chemotherapy" in the form of ever-increasing taxes, as the private health-insurance industry fades into obscurity in the shadow of an ever-growing federal behemoth (just look at the Medicare and Social Security programs for previews). But it is from my perspective as an attorney that I predict the most insidious repercussion of Obamacare: metastasis – the spread of the "cancer" – beyond our health-care system, ultimately pervading fundamental personal freedoms Americans have heretofore taken for granted in their daily lives.
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In upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively ruled that the federal government can use punitive taxes to impose otherwise-unconstitutional behavioral dictates upon individual Americans. At the moment, the nation's attention is focused on a single manifestation of this perplexingly paradoxical decision, the imposition of a special tax upon any American who chooses not to purchase health insurance, aka the "individual mandate" provision of Obamacare. As a legal, financial and behavioral scholar, however, I predict that this newly expanded governmental power to levy punitive taxes in order to coerce individual behavior will be used repeatedly in the future to stave off Obamacare's inevitable insolvency by discouraging individual Americans from behaving in "unhealthy" ways. While the associated rhetoric will be beneficent, I predict that Obamacare will increasingly be used to justify insidious governmental usurpations of individual Americans' freedoms in the name of controlling health-care costs.
The general concept is not new – it has been used for years to discourage cigarette smoking – but the Supreme Court's affirmation of Obamacare has simultaneously created a justification for an ever-expanding range of increasingly intrusive federal abridgments of individual freedom and green-lighted the enforcement thereof via the federal tax code. Soft drinks, fast foods, snack foods, candy, dessert foods and alcoholic beverages will all be taxed beyond the financial reach of many Americans because they ostensibly contribute to health problems for which the government will now plausibly claim financial responsibility. In other words, the government will now argue that an individual American's poor dietary choices adversely impact all other Americans, and the government will use this as a justification for regulating the individual's behavior through punitive taxation.
In addition, individual decisions not to purchase government-"recommended" items will now be penalized along with decisions to purchase government-"discouraged" items. For example, the imputed health-care costs of such behaviors as driving too fast or watching too much television will be used to justify the imposition of punitive taxes on individuals who refuse to install speed "governors" on their cars or "time-out" devices on their televisions. The possibilities are practically – and frighteningly – unlimited, and if we fail to reject them decisively at the ballot box this November, they threaten to degrade our very freedom and quality of life as Americans, let alone our health-care system (and if any of the above actually seems beneficent, then I prescribe an emergency reading of George Orwell's "1984").
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Dr. Brian Russell is a licensed psychologist, licensed attorney, MBA, health-care management consultant and national-television personality.