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Governor's Column - Lessons From James Madison


Location: Pierre, SD

By Governor Daugaard

Over a week ago, the Obama administration made an important announcement on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." After the law initially caused the cancellation of many health insurance policies, President Obama announced he would allow insurance companies, until the end of next year, to renew those policies instead.

One South Dakota news source reported that the announcement sent the insurance industry "into a tizzy," because the announcement changed the rules after implementation had begun. This is just the latest instance of the administration making unexpected changes in the law's implementation.

Earlier this year the President delayed the employer mandate -- the part of the law that requires employers with at least 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance. Earlier still, the president had also delayed employer coverage verification, the cap on out-of-pocket costs and online enrollment for small businesses.

All of these changing regulations and requirements really hit home to me when, the other day, I read something that James Madison wrote, over two centuries ago, in "Federalist #62":

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?"

Imagine what James Madison would say if he saw the one-thousand page Affordable Care Act, the thousands of pages of regulations and the changes in implementation that continue to occur. How can individuals, businesses or insurers plan when they are constantly faced with the "incessant changes" of Obamacare?

James Madison was right. Whether it's at the state or federal level, we need to be able to understand our laws and to have confidence that they will be consistently enforced. If those things can't be achieved, maybe it's not something the government should be doing in the first place.

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