Since 2009, President Obama has denied that his health care reform plan is a tax on Americans, but the label has stuck.
The Supreme Court delivered a 5-4 decision Thursday that held up the constitutionality of Obama's plan. Under the plan, a penalty is levied on those who can afford health insurance but do not have it. David Axelrod, the senior adviser to Obama’s re-election campaign, told Matt Lauer on TODAY Friday that it’s more about the positive outcome of the law than how it's construed.
“Whatever you call it, whether you call it a mandate or a tax, what it is is a penalty on the very few Americans who can afford healthcare, don’t pay for it, end up in our emergency rooms getting free care and then we all pay for it in the form of higher premiums,’’ Axelrod said. “That’s not fair.’’
Axelrod told a personal story of health care cost struggles when his daughter Lauren, who has epilepsy, was young.
"I'm the parent of a child who has a chronic illness," he said. "I was one of those Americans 30 years ago who almost went bankrupt because insurance wouldn't cover what she needed to stay alive. That's not the country that we believe in."
The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, guarantees health care for all Americans while mandating that all Americans have health insurance. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told reporters Thursday that he will act to repeal Obamacare if elected in November.
Lauer asked Axelrod whether calling Obamacare a tax will hurt the president in the upcoming election.
“Direct that question to Gov. Romney, who was the chief proponent of this very policy when he was the governor of Massachusetts because he said it was fair to make sure there weren’t free riders who were driving up everybody’s insurance rates,’’ Axelrod said. “That was right then, and we should ask him why he doesn’t think it’s right now.’’
House Republicans have scheduled a vote on July 11. In order to repeal the law, Republicans need to maintain their majority in the House, reach at least 50 members in the Senate and have Romney win the presidential election.
“The Republicans can make a political issue of this, but they’re going to have to explain why they want to roll back a law that is already producing so much good for the American people,’’ Axelrod said. “There’s so much that’s already working. Why do they want to roll it back?
“The question is, Did the American people win? Is the middle class stronger? Are Americans stronger, are they more secure because of this law? And the answer to that is yes.’’
Axelrod also addressed the House Republicans' decision to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. He's being accused of withholding information related to the investigation of a gun-tracking operation that went awry and resulted in the death of a Border Patrol agent in Arizona. Only hours after the Supreme Court ruled on the health care plan, the House voted 255-67 to declare Holder in criminal contempt, which could lead to his prosecution.
“I think it was an embarrassment to the Congress,’’ Axelrod said. “We’ve got serious problems in this country. Mr. Holder has turned over 7,000 documents, (and) 11 times there’s been testimony from the administration. They’re getting their questions answered. They wanted the confrontation, they wanted the political theater. They ought to be getting to work on the problems that are significant to the American people.’’