Dana Milbank reports, with glee, that the United Nations “has contacted the Trump administration as part of an investigation into whether repealing [Obamacare] without an adequate substitute for the millions who would lose health coverage would be a violation of several international conventions that bind the United States.” The warning comes from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission (now known as the Human Rights Council) purports to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,“ Its members include China, Cuba, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.
The “High Commissioner’s” office warning that Obamacare repeal/replacement might be illegal comes in a letter to the Trump administration. The Commissioner asked that the letter be shared with majority and minority leadership in both chambers of Congress. It also proposed that “the wider public should be alerted to the potential implications of the above-mentioned allegations.” According to Milbank, the White House has not shared the letter with Congress, much less “alerted the wider public.”
The public should be alerted, and alarmed, that the U.N. is attempting to dictate our domestic policy. The “High Commissioner’s” letter shows that signing broadly worded international agreements allows foreign countries, including some of the world’s worst dictatorship, to accuse us of violating the law. We should sign no more of them.
By way of illustration, one of the provisions the U.N. relies on in this case is Article 5(e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the U.S. in 1994. It calls on states to “guarantee the right of everyone” to, among other things, “public health, medical care, social security and social services” without regard to race or color.
It is not far-fetched to imagine lawsuits in U.S. courts based on claims that the government is violating this kind of “obligation” to which America agreed. How far-fetched is it to imagine left-liberal judges seriously entertaining such lawsuits? Not very, in my view.
In reality, pre-Obamacare America offered health care to everyone without regard to race or color. It provided poor Americans with free health care via Medicaid. Millions of other Americans received health insurance from their employer. The rest (except those with pre-existing conditions, a matter of real concern) were free to purchase health insurance, if they so desired. The market offered plans that were not expensive — my wife had one — at least not compared to the ones Americans are required to purchase under the Obamacare regime.
No one was denied health insurance due to race or color. Nor, to my knowledge, was anyone denied service — e.g. at an emergency room — on that basis.
If the pre-Obamacare system violated international law, it doesn’t take a creative lawyer to argue that, even with Obamacare, we remain in violation. Millions of Americans are still without health insurance.
In essence, Obamacare provided new incentives to purchase health insurance. One incentive is the penalty (called a “tax”) by the Supreme Court on those who don’t purchase it. Another is the subsidy offered to people of modest means.
But for millions of Americans, these incentives have proven inadequate to induce the purchase of insurance. Thus, the U.N. (were it politically impartial) could easily find that the U.S. remains out of compliance with international law. It could insist that the U.S. sweeten the pot with larger subsidies. It could insist that the U.S. adopt the single-payer system that the American left yearns for.
If Obamacare is ever repealed, it will be replaced. There may well be government-created incentives to buy health insurance (as was the case with Ryan’s proposal), but they will probably less enticing (e.g., tax credits or deductions).
The U.N., through its “investigation,” is claiming the authority to evaluate Obamacare replacement packages. In effect, it asserts the right to decide whether the replacement incentives measure up to the Obamacare incentives (inadequate though these may be).
The U.N.’s infringement on our democracy is obvious.
It’s not surprising that elites in the rest of the world want to dictate to America. It’s not surprising that many of the left want such leftist elites to dictate to us. What’s surprising is that America has gone as far as it has to provide the tools with which claims like those being made by these elite, via bureaucrats in Geneva, can be asserted with a straight face.