It's been argued that shrewd Republicans -- including the shrewd and extremely politicized right-wing bloc on the Supreme Court -- don't want to overturn the Affordable Care Act at this point, because pushing millions of people off the healthcare rolls would do serious harm to the GOP at the polls. That may be true -- it may be true of the GOP leadership, and it may be true of John Roberts and his cronies.
But if it is true, then what we're seeing is another conflict between the extremely-but-not-insanely-conservative "mainstream" branch of the GOP and the just-let-it-burn crazies, led by the Koch brothers. The Kochs are not young men. They don't have much time left to fundamentally transform America into a New Gilded Age state with a tiny social safety net. They want the ACA gone now.
So they've got opposition researchers turning over every rock they can, looking for evidence that the authors of the ACA intended to provide health insurance premium subsidies only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges, as one part of the bill states (contradicting other passages in the same bill). And they've got a coup, because somebody found this in Minute 31 of an obscure 2012 talk by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who worked on the development of both Romneycare and Obamacare:
A video of the presentation, posted on YouTube, was unearthed tonight by Ryan Radia at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank which has participated in the legal challenge to the IRS rule allowing subsidies in federal exchanges. Here's what Gruber says.If that was Gruber's understanding, it contradicts what other architects of the law have said, and what he's said at other times -- but still, this is a big find, and the right-wing media is all over it.
What's important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don't set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits -- but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you're essentially saying [to] your citizens you're going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that's a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this. [emphasis added]
This was found by a guy at the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute and published on the blog of the Koch-funded Reason magazine, in support of a lawsuit pushed by the partly Koch-controlled Cato Institute.
The Kochs and their bleeding-edge wingnut billionaire allies can't wait. They're out to destroy Obamacare no matter what the consequences to the GOP in 2016. They'll deal will the elections later. For now, their goal is to win this war. And it's total war.
Now, regarding what Gruber says: I've appended the video below, and you can see if you go to Minute 31 that this isn't a James O'Keefe disortion -- Gruber's words aren't being taken out of context.
On the other hand, Gruber was also the coauthor of a series of assessments of the law's impact on states, written for Gorman Actuarial, LLC, in 2011, after the law passed. I certainly haven't read every word of the 67-page Maine report (PDF), or all 56 pages of the Wisconsin report (PDF), but I see no attempt whatsoever to assess what happens to premium subsidies in these states if state exchanges aren't established -- even though both states had elected tea party governors a year earlier. (A year later, both Maine and Wisconsin would announce their refusal to set up state exchanges.)
Why would Gruber put his name on a lengthy analysis of Obamacare's impact on these states that didn't assess a scenario he thought was a serious possibility? It makes no sense.
After the Halbig decision came down, Gruber said this:
Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it's a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states. And why would they? Look, the law says that people are only subject to the mandate if they can afford insurance, if it's less than 8 percent of their income. If you get rid of these subsidies, 99 percent of the people who would get subsidies can no longer afford insurance, so you destroy the mandate. Why would Congress set up the mandate and go through all that political battle to allow it to be destroyed?Right-wingers would tell you that Gruber was told that the Liberal Politburo said he'd become an unperson and be sent to a reeducation camp if he didn't say that now. Do you believe that? Go to the link and watch the clip I transcribed. He sounds quite sincere to me -- and extremely angry at right-wingers' attempts to destroy this law.