If the Supreme Court decides that there will be no more retroactive legislating and upholds Obamacare as written, terrible things will happen to America. No doubt, you’ve heard some of them. We might, for instance, find out what health insurance in fabricated, state-run “marketplaces” actually cost:
Yikes: if King v. Burwell goes against Obamacare, premiums in Mississippi will spike *650 percent* http://t.co/kPJlxMUGmE
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) June 3, 2015
Yikes, indeed. But her contention isn’t exactly right. Insurance plans in federally run exchanges already cost 650 percent more than consumers pay. The difference is picked up taxpayers. Kaiser estimates that the 37 states that have declined to set up exchanges will see an average spike of 287 percent should the King v. Burwell decision not go the administration’s way. A ruling that only proves exchanges have not made insurance markets more competitive or more affordable, as promised.
And you know who’s to blame for that, right?
Vox: “What a Supreme Court ruling against Obamacare would look like, in 3 maps”
The Washington Post (basically the same story): “Map: Health-care premiums could spike as much as 650 percent if this Obamacare challenge succeeds.”
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 SCOTUS. 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.
Put it this way: 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 only been around for a few years will, according to Josh Earnest and most liberal pundits, throw the nation into 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.
Though some liberals may consider Republicans a party of would-be Timothy McVeighs, not a single one of them 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 not only as 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 postion, Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy 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 is would be the equivalent of Sen. Ted Cruz demanding 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 a plans to do just that. Sen. Ron Johnson’s scheme allows 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 (ACA), so it’s improbable they’d capitulate on the mandate and penalty that holds the entire law together. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to make them reject the idea.
Because without state subsidies, Obamacare will struggle and the debate is likely to settle along the same contours it’s been on for years. And according to Wall Street Journal, there will be significant insurance premium increases coming next year—somewhere between 25 to 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 ACA. The disconnect consumers have from prices is only growing under Obamacare.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Policy News Index says that 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 Democrats and the media will roll out once millions lose their subsidies. The fight is going to be over for who the public blames for whatever chaos ensues. The culpability for that chaos belongs in one place.