Friday, January 02, 2015

MAKING HEALTH COVERAGE UNAFFORDABLE FOR MILLIONS: SUPREME COURT BUG OR FEATURE?

Greg Sargent points out that the number of people who'll be seriously affected if the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare is possibly greater than previously expected:
One thing to watch as we approach the SCOTUS hearings on King v. Burwell this spring is how many people are newly qualifying for subsidies in those states as this year’s enrollment period continues.

The Department of Health and Human Services has released a new report on enrollment data that suggests that number could be very large -- which could (theoretically, at least) make it harder for SCOTUS to gut the law.

... in general terms a very high percentage of those on the federal exchange appear to qualify for subsidies.

... we could be looking at a lot of people who would lose subsidies in the event of a bad SCOTUS ruling, perhaps more overall than previous estimates of around four million. And the enrollment period still has six weeks to go.
The total could be well over five million.
... In federal-exchange states where the largest numbers of people might lose subsidies if SCOTUS rules against the law, state officials might be less likely to then set up their own exchanges to keep the subsidies flowing....

The reason this matters: Highlighting the potential for such a SCOTUS decision to result in widespread disruptions and dire consequences -- both for millions who might lose coverage and for the insurance and health care industry in these states -- may figure heavily in the government’s strategy for winning the case. Now, it’s possible that expected swing vote John Roberts won’t bother considering such disruptions and consequences in reaching his decision. But who knows -- he just might....
I've been thinking that an extreme disruption of health coverage for millions is just what the right wants -- far from being a reason the Republicans on the Court might refrain from overturning Obamacare, it's a desired result.

But that's only if Republicans continue to feel bulletproof -- remember, they've made government more or less non-functional in D.C. for years, and they have lousy poll numbers to show for it ... and yet they blew the Democrats away in the 2014 elections, because voters blamed government dysfunction on the president's party. If Republicans think voters will blame anything that goes wrong with Obamacare on Obama, then they'll want to make insurance too expensive for six million people.

But maybe they don't trust their luck -- if Obamacare is overturned by five Republican judges, even low-information votrs might blame the GOP rather than the president.

Also, Republicans may still want Obamacare around in 2016 as a base-voter motivator.

So maybe Roberts will rescue the law again. But if he does, it'll be as a pro-GOP chess move, not because the suit fails on the merits or because he thinks pulling the rug out from millions is a bad thing.

13 comments:

CCB said...

"So maybe Roberts will rescue the law again. But if he does, it'll be as a pro-GOP chess move, not because the suit fails on the merits or because he thinks pulling the rug out from millions is a bad thing. "
This is the most dispiriting thing I've read in a long time. I live in Vermont; the biggest stain on Pat Leahy's career is allowing Roberts to be appointed to the court.

Eric said...

This is a remarkable legal argument that Sargeant is making: turning over the law would be "disruptive." This argument could be made for every Supreme Court decision from Madison v. Marbury to Brown v. Board of Education.

But I understand. When your legal argument is crap, you have to find other things to say.

And, yes, the Democrats own this awful slapped-together legislation and the consequences of its internal failures. There's no use trying to wish that Americans will blame this on the Republicans.

Dark Avenger said...

The lower court decision was based on a misreading of the law. if there was ever a law that passed through Congress that wasn't slapped together before getting to the President's desk, it was this one.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Merits?

Tbone said...

Sure, except the "failure" was brought about by republicans specifically.

Victor said...

Well I, for one, am certainly glad that our SCOTUS is apolitical, and above petty politics!

Oh, sorry.
I was having a dream.
It's ok.
I'm back to our nightmare...

Eric said...

"Sure, except the "failure" was brought about by republicans specifically."

Wow...I'd really like to hear how Obamacare - passed with only Democratic votes and implemented by a Democratic administration - is the fault of Republicans.

This oughta be good.

Erik C. said...

How 'bout you explain how the law is a "failure", Eric? So many predictions of how it would "fail" have proven to be not so, after all.

Now it's gonna take a Conservative majority on the SCOTUS to really make it "fail". You are right that it's very possible that the Prez is going to get the blame for the results of the law getting gutted - even if he doesn't deserve it - but that's ultimately not a reflection on the law itself.

Roger said...

A critique from a legal genius citing Madison v. Marbury.

I have only one question: Is your law degree from Regent U. or Liberty U.?

Roger said...

I guess the narrative that SCOTUS is certain to rule against the law is satisfying to some left-wing equivalent of the Tea Party, trying to arouse fear and loathing any way they can, but I'd like to remind you of one thing: it ain't happened yet. It may very well not happen. The arguments against that narrow reading are so strong it's very possible that SCOTUS is not going to rule that way. After all, it's obvious that one way a state can implement an exchange is by passively allowing the federal government to do it. We aren't dealing with the intent of people who've been dead a couple hundred years, either. The people who wrote the law are still around to tell what the intent of the law was. Sheesh! Chill, folks.

Eric said...

"We aren't dealing with the intent of people who've been dead a couple hundred years, either. The people who wrote the law are still around to tell what the intent of the law was."

Jesus, are you shitting me? Have you never heard of Jonathan Gruber, the so-called "architect" of Obamacare who said that states that do not set up exchanges do not receive subsidies?

You people really live in your own world.

Regular GeoX said...

the so-called "architect" of Obamacare

Ha ha--wow, you've really drunk the kool-aid, haven't you?

Erik C. said...

Eric, you still haven't explained why the ACA is a "failure".