In two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, and the future of Obamacare will be decided. The president and his supporters have denigrated this case as a transparent attempt to turn a “typo” into a bigger deal than it is, but it’s going before the highest court in the land whether they like it or not. It remains to be seen whether the Chief Justices will see things differently.
Hanging in the balance is whether or not Obamacare subsidies can be offered in states that rely on the federal exchange. According to the letter of the law, only states that set up their own exchanges can offer subsides to customers. If the Supreme Court decides against the administration, nearly 7 million people could lose their subsidies. If that happens, insurance premiums will skyrocket for those individuals. Young, healthy subscribers will drop their plans in an instant. Even older, moderately-healthy customers will have some tough decisions to make. And signups in 36 states will almost certainly come to a standstill unless those states hurriedly create their own exchanges.
It could be nothing less than the end of Obamacare.
Building a Blueprint
The pressure has been on Republicans to come up with a healthcare alternative should the ruling come to pass. Well, they announced that alternative this week, just in case the winds of justice should favor the right. The plan sounds pretty good, taking into consideration that it has yet to be scrutinized in the way analysts have pored over the Affordable Care Act for the last several years. It could be atrocious when put under the microscope. This is still Washington, after all.
On the bright side, though, it certainly does appear better than Obamacare. Gone are the individual and employer mandates, which are some of the chief sticking points with the president’s law. Instead, Republicans propose tax credits for lower income individuals, a market-based selection service, and a round of reform measures meant to target malpractice and business regulations. At the same time, it holds in place some of the ACA’s less odious aspects. Kids will still get to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26, lifetime limits will still be outlawed, and those with pre-existing conditions will still be guaranteed coverage.
It’s important to remember that this is very preliminary. We’re not even talking about a bill yet; this is merely a “blueprint” sponsored by Orrin Hatch and a couple of other Republicans. It’s meant to chart the way towards a possible alternative to Obamacare, and it will doubtlessly go through plenty of iterations before becoming law.
And of course, the Supreme Court may very well find that the subsidies should stand, thus making the whole thing a moot point. Hardliners want to see Republicans repeal Obamacare, but the majority of voters would rather see it tweaked here and there. The same Republicans who saw no political benefit in pursuing Obama’s executive amnesty in a concrete way will probably not want to chase down the ACA, either.
Still, it’s the middle of winter. Much of the country is suffering under some extraordinary snowstorms. ISIS is still out there. Russia is threatening to bring us back to the days of the Cold War. Obama could be on the verge of letting Iran dictate the terms of their nuclear program. Things are grim.
It’s nice to hold out hope. Maybe just this once, things will go our way.