Video: Utah experts speak on Obamacare

What are the main components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare) and what does the law mean for Utahns?

Watch this video report to hear what Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Norm Thurston of the governor’s office, and Judi Hilman of the Utah Health Policy Project had to say about Obamacare:

You can read more about the Supreme Court’s hearings on Obamacare here, here and here.

What do you think about Obamacare? Is it good for Utah?

Here’s the script for the video: 

MARK SHURTLEFF: “It will be as in the words of Justice [Anthony] Kennedy during the arguments: ‘It will fundamentally change the relationship between individuals and their government.’ Because it will say that the federal government can actually penalize you for not doing something.”

VOICE-OVER: Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had a front-row seat during the U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or, as many call it, Obamacare. The federal health reform law is changing many aspects of the health care industry, including a mandate that requires every American to buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014. Shurtleff does not believe the mandate is constitutional.

SHURTLEFF: “They can force you into the stream of commerce; they can force you to do something you don’t want to do, and if you don’t you’re going to be penalized by the federal government. That is not the role of the federal government; it will really change the nature of that relationship.”

VOICE-OVER: So what are the main components of Obamacare, and what does the law mean for Utahns? Governor Gary Herbert’s coordinator for health policy, Norm Thurston, highlights the major provisions.

NORM THURSTON: “The basic idea behind the Affordable Care Act is that everybody would have some form of health care coverage. And there is two parts that one is that people have to want to do it, so there’s a motivational factor helping people want to do it and the other part of the act is to help make it affordable. So on the ‘making people want to do it,’ there’s the famous – or infamous, how you want to think about it – individual mandate which would require people to have some form of health care coverage by participating in a public program or private insurance plan or else they would pay a penalty. The other half is how to make it affordable, because it’s one thing to tell people you have to have insurance, but then how do you require them to buy insurance that they have no way of paying for? So one of the biggest elements of the Affordable Care Act is the rollout of massive expansions of public programs and funding; government funding for health insurance.”

VOICE-OVER: Judi Hilman, the executive director at Utah Health Policy Project, is in favor of Obamacare and believes the mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance is constitutional.

JUDI HILMAN: “It’s perfectly constitutional, and I think that as long as politics are sort of kept out of the Supreme Court’s deliberations, then it should be found constitutional, of course. And the reason for that is, insurance is not like any product, like broccoli or cell phones, a product where the consumer has a choice about buying that product. With health insurance, we are all going to need it someday, some of us more than others.”

VOICE-OVER: Shurtleff has an opposing view of Obamacare.

SHURTLEFF: “I don’t support Obamacare; in fact, I was one of the first attorney generals to sue to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare because of the very fact that Congress went about it illegally, meaning they violated the Constitution, separation of powers and the responsibility under the Constitution. Particularly when I say separation of powers, particularly with relationships to states and the 10th amendment.”

VOICE-OVER: Shurtleff said that if the federal government can get away with passing Obamacare, then it could get away with a lot more.

SHURTLEFF: “The court kept asking in arguments, what is your, what they call, limiting principle here, “What is your limiting principle, federal government; if we allow this where do you draw the line after this?” And they could not, day after day, hour after hour, they were asked consistently and the federal government could not come up with a clearly defined limitation as to the federal government’s power if the Supreme Court upholds this law.”

HILMAN: “We know very well all of the minds that have come together, really all the legal scholars, all the academics who think about health policy pretty much on the side of this makes sense, this is certainly constitutional. And none of them have talked about mandate, they don’t want to mandate anything else.”

VOICE-OVER: Hilman argued that the only way to fix the health care system is to get everyone into it.

HILMAN: “You want to stop this whole idea of pre-existing conditions and discriminatory premiums based on pre-existing conditions; everybody wants that to go away, but what we know from states that have experience trying to do this in different ways is it’s not going to work, unless you get the young healthy people into the system, and to do that you need affordability measures and you probably, we think, definitely have to have that mandate to make sure we have personal responsibility.”

VOICE-OVER: So, if upheld, just how much would Obamacare cost the state of Utah?

THURSTON: “I don’t have a specific dollar figure, and I don’t really know that we could produce one that would be accurate, but it’s a lot of money. I would say it’s probably going to be measured in hundreds of millions or possibly billions of dollars to the state.”

VOICE-OVER: What do you think? Should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold the Affordable Care Act? Or should it rule the law goes too far and invalidate the individual mandate, or the mandate along with other parts of the law – or should it throw out the law altogether? For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young, reminding you that public policy changes lives.

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