All I Want for Christmas is My Freedom Back

Tell Santa to bring President Obama a stocking stuffer: a copy of the U.S. Constitution with the words "Laws be faithfully executed" underlined in red. Those words define the President's most important duty. But Obama, himself a constitutional lawyer, is ignoring the Constitution and governing like a dictator.

His latest ploy exempts unions from a fee that the Affordable Care Act imposes. Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who voted for Obama and professes to agree with him on healthcare and other issues, didn't mince words when he testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 3. Turley warned that Obama's power grabs are causing "the most serious constitutional crisis I've seen in my lifetime." Several law professors and policy experts laid out a litany of the president's constitutional transgressions. He has delayed and rewritten key provisions of his healthcare law, and weaseled a special insurance subsidy for members of Congress that the law did not provide. When Congress refused to enact his immigration and environmental policies, he imposed them by edict, granting amnesty to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and forcing regulations on coal plants that will likely bankrupt that industry.

Most recent is Obama's trick to spare unions from a fee that section 1341(b)(1)(A) of the Affordable Care unambiguously imposes on all large group health plans. Faithfully executing the law means applying it even-handedly. Dictators do the opposite, playing favorites.

The union give-away is buried on page 72340 of the Federal Register for December 2, a voluminous publication where government discloses its mind numbing regulations. The Affordable Care Act set up a reinsurance program to compensate insurers in the individual market hit with high costs covering people with pre-existing conditions. The money is raised with a fee imposed on all group health plans, starting in 2014 through 2016, designed to raise $25 billion in all. Insurers and self-insured employers pay in proportion to the number of people they cover, so in 2014 the fee is $63 per covered person.

For three and a half years, the Obama administration crafted regulations to impose the fee on all large group plans. But in the fall of 2013, unions pressed for an exemption. Then these words appeared on December 2:

"Our continued study of this issue leads us to believe that this provision may reasonably be interpreted in one of two ways – it may be interpreted to mean that self-insured, self administered plans must make reinsurance contributions, or it may be interpreted to mean that such plans are excluded from the obligation…"

That's a lie. The Affordable Care Act's reinsurance provision doesn't use the word "self-administered" or distinguish between plans that pay their own claims and plans that hire administrators. But Taft-Hartley union plans self-insure and self-administer and will therefore be exempted by the December 2 regulation.

Writing government double-talk is a dark art. It's straight out of George Orwell's 1984. Orwell warned that totalitarian governments impudently claim that black is white, in contradiction to the plain truth, to sap the public's ability to think critically. The Obama administration does it too.

The army of bureaucrats cranking out regulations and deceptions to justify them have no loyalty to the public or the U.S. Constitution. They are loyal to the state and its current leader, and they have terrifying power over us.

The December 2 rule will mean that insurers and other self-insured employers who are not exempted pay more in 2015 and 2016 to meet the $25 billion target. It's a zero situation. They will have grounds to sue, but the President is counting on the fact that they won't. Insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and other industries are being corrupted by the Obama administration's cronyism. They figure they'll make it up somewhere else in a side deal with the administration.

The biggest loss is freedom. Each time Obama claims power the Constitution does not allow he sets a menacing precedent for future presidents to rule by edict.

Betsy McCaughey is a constitutional scholar, a patient advocate and health policy expert, and a former Lt. Governor of New York state. She is the founding Chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (also known as RID), a nationwide educational campaign to stop hospital-acquired infections. She is the author of over three hundred scholarly and popular articles, and three books, including a history of the U.S. Constitution. McCaughey can be followed @Betsy_McCaughey and

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