Politics & Policy

No Republicans Voted for Obamacare, so It’s Not Their Problem to Fix


If the Supreme Court were to decide not to allow retroactive legislating and uphold Obamacare as written, terrible things would happen to America. We might, for instance, find out what health insurance in fabricated, state-run “marketplaces” actually costs.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the 37 states that have declined to set up exchanges would see an average spike of 287 percent should the King v. Burwell decision not go the Obama administration’s way. It would be 650 percent in Mississippi — an amount that only proves that exchanges have not made insurance markets more competitive or more affordable as promised. Actually, the cost of insurance in federally run exchanges is already 287 percent higher. The difference is picked up by taxpayers.

And you know who’s to blame for that, right?

Here is Vox: “What a Supreme Court ruling against Obamacare would look like, in 3 maps.”

Here is the Washington Post: “Map: Health-care premiums could spike as much as 650 percent if this Obamacare challenge succeeds.”

If the president is willing to berate SCOTUS for protecting the First Amendment, you can imagine what we’re in for should something unpleasant happen to the signature achievement of the new progressive era.

Now, technically, King v. Burwell isn’t a “challenge” to Obamacare. It’s a challenge to uphold Obamacare rather than allow the administration to implement the law in any manner it sees fit. There are compelling arguments on both sides, but the case is well within the purview of the U.S. Supreme Court. The coverage of the debate, though, has already been irrevocably distorted.

In the past few years, any SCOTUS decision that potentially disrupts liberal policy aims has been depicted as an unprecedented and extraordinary partisan overreach that threatens civic order and the norms of democracy. If the president is willing to berate SCOTUS for protecting the First Amendment, you can imagine what we’re in for should something unpleasant happen to the signature achievement of the new progressive era.

So SCOTUS can issue pro-same-sex-marriage opinions that “challenge” over 200 years of American law and upend a traditional institution, but ending a concocted subsidy that’s been around for only a few years would, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, create bedlam:

We continue to be very confident in the legal case we have to make. What’s also true is that if the Supreme Court were to throw the health care system in this country into utter chaos, there would be no easy solution for solving that problem, because it would likely require an act of Congress in order to address that situation.

Not a single Republican voted for Obamacare. Most, in fact, cautioned that passing the largest health-care reform in American history — written by one party, jammed through using reconciliation, and haphazardly implemented — could be problematic as not only an ideological matter but a practical one. Now they have to act?

It’s widely contended that the GOP has some kind of obligation to rescue Obamacare — whether for moral reasons or for self-preservation. In addition to the administration’s position, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut actually stood on the Senate floor with a “shruggie” symbol to criticize the GOP for not formulating a plan in response to King v. Burwell. This would be the equivalent of seeing Senator Ted Cruz demanding that Democrats come up with a strategy to resuscitate the Defense of Marriage Act. It is preposterous.

So predictably, a number of Republicans are working on plans. Senator Ron Johnson’s scheme would allow exchange participants to keep their Obamacare subsidies until August 2017 (which, I’ve argued before, needlessly confers the GOP with ownership of a problem it didn’t create). The thought is that Obamacare will be on life support until a Republican president takes office and the legislation can be repealed and replaced. Johnson, as you can see, exhibits completely unwarranted faith in his party.

Johnson’s bill would also repeal the individual mandate (which, last anyone checked, is still decidedly unpopular) and the employee mandate. Democrats didn’t believe they had to find a single Republican to compromise when passing the Affordable Care Act, so it’s improbable they’d capitulate on the mandate and penalty that hold the entire law together. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to make them reject the idea.

Because without state subsidies, Obamacare would struggle, and the debate is likely to settle along the same contours it’s been on for years. And according to the Wall Street Journal, there will be significant insurance-premium increases coming next year — somewhere between 25 and 50 percent in a number of states — now that insurance company subsidies are running out, as well. As always, there are an array of reasons, but the WSJ points to high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled in Obamacare. The disconnect that consumers have from prices is only growing under Obamacare.

The Kaiser Health Policy News Index says 59 percent of Americans aren’t paying any attention to news stories about King v. Burwell. A mere 16 percent have been following the story. So you can imagine the overwhelming appeal to emotion that Democrats and the media would roll out if millions were to lose their subsidies. The fight would be over whom the public blames for whatever chaos would ensue. The culpability for that chaos would belong in one place.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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