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Herger Opening Statement: Hearing on Individual and Employer Mandates

March 29, 2012

We are here today at the end of an extraordinary week in the history of the Democrats’ health care overhaul.  Last Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the law, and for three days this week the Supreme Court considered its constitutionality.  Today, the subcommittee will examine two coercive mandates at the center of the law.  

Beginning in 2014, the individual mandate will require Americans to buy government-approved health insurance even if they can’t afford it, or else pay a penalty.  This mandate fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and the federal government, and for the first time in history requires individuals to purchase a private product and enter into a private contract.  

Not surprisingly, the individual mandate is the subject of one of the most important and closely-watched Supreme Court cases in modern times.  The individual mandate is also deeply unpopular with the American people.  A constitutionally-suspect mandate that is opposed by the public is not a very stable cornerstone of a health reform plan, and yet the administration claims it is “essential.”  

The individual mandate is unprecedented, unlimited, unnecessary, and dangerous.  Never before has Congress required individuals to purchase a private product.  If Congress has the power to compel commerce, its power becomes virtually unlimited. Indeed, the Obama Administration has not put forward any limiting principle.  

Finally, the individual mandate creates a federal police power – a power reserved in the Constitution for the states.  This is dangerous, because our dual system of sovereignty is essential to protecting individual liberty.  

Our first panel will examine the constitutionality of the individual mandate.  Not everyone was able to secure a seat to hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week, but it is important that the public as well as Members of Congress understand the constitutional questions raised by this coercive mandate.  We have a distinguished panel of attorneys, each of whom have authored or co-authored influential amicus briefs in this historic case.

The second panel will discuss the economic problems created by the employer mandate.  I can sum up those problems in one word:  jobs.  

The employer mandate places additional cost burdens on employers, which is the last thing job creators need during these tough economic times, and it will discourage the hiring of additional workers.  A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey of over 1,300 small business executives found that 74 percent say the recent health care law makes it harder for their business to hire more employees.  Given how long we have suffered with high unemployment, the employer mandate makes absolutely no sense.  

In addition, the employer mandate will force employers to scale back their existing workforce – particularly workers at the lower end of the wage scale.

Equally troubling, the mandate encourages employers to eliminate the health insurance they offer to their employees because the penalty associated with not offering coverage is far cheaper than the costs associated with offering and maintaining health insurance coverage.

In summary, the cornerstones of the Democrats’ health care law are crumbling under the weight of scrutiny.  The entire law needs to be repealed and replaced with real, constitutional reforms that reduce the price of health insurance.