Thursday, February 26, 2015


Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal outlining a possible Republican response if the Supreme Court guts Obamacare in the King v. Burwell case. Sasse makes all the usual GOP noises about how awful and illegal and totalitarian Obamacare is, but even he can see that its abrupt termination in the majority of U.S. states would be a disaster. So here's his proposal:
First, in the event that the court strikes down the subsidies as illegal, Congress must be prepared to offer immediate, targeted protection to those hurt by this administration’s reckless disregard for the rule of law. ObamaCare took these patients hostage. Conservatives have a duty to save them.

So within a week I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 “Cobra” law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months -- so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court’s decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments.

Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn’t enough.
OK, fine. Let's say this all happens. Where are we likely to be as President Obama's term ends?

Republicans still think that branding themselves as the We Hate Obamacare Party will send one of their own to the White House, but there's no reason to suspect that thatwill be any truer in 2016 than it was in 2012 -- Republican politicians and voters may think about the health care law the way Ahab thought about Moby-Dick, but normal Americans aren't as monomaniacal. Hillary Clinton will run as an O'care supporter, and will probably demand a permanent fix if one is needed, and polls still suggest she'll win the presidency easily.

But if so, she'll almost certainly have to work with a Republican House and a Senate that's either majority Rpublican or (barely) majority Democrat, with filibusters a regular threat. But if Sasse's patch has been passed, and has made the post-King v. Burwell world roughly indistinguishable from the pre-King v. Burwell world for most Americans, then the law will really be ingrained and hard to dislodge.

Yet Republicans still won't agree to patch it permanently -- you just know they won't, even if Hillary kicked their butts in November 2016 and Democrats had impressive gains in House and Senate races. They'll still be trying to repeal Obamacare. Democrats will insist on a permanent solution. There'll be the usual congressional impasse and the usual brinkmanship.

And the outcome, I'm guessing, will be ... a renewal of the temporary fix, probably to be followed by another, and another, and another, until one party or the other is sufficiently dominant in Washington to get its way on healthcare.

Because that's how everything's done now, thanks to Republican intransigence, right?


Victor said...


"Dear American people, you who trapped are under the yoke of that dictator, Obama, and his tyrannical Obamacare, we're about to bring an angel to save you!

Say 'Hello," to the "Angel of Death!'"

Clif M. said...

"Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn’t enough."

Still waiting to hear this plan of theirs... been waiting years....

Chris Andersen said...

You know what? I'm okay with this. If the alternative is throwing millions out of the new system, then a temporary extension of the subsidies for 17 months (or however long it is) would be a good compromise.

And you are right that when those 17 months pass and no Republican alternative is presented (because there is none) then it will be extended again and again until such time that people are so used to the subsidies existing that they will be outraged the minute it appears they are going away. In that atmosphere, a permanent fix will pass.

It's ugly. But if it gets us over this crap without hurting people any more than it has to then hooraw!

Victor said...

Look over their BS plan again, and see if you can find where they're blowing smoke up everyone's ass - including the SCOTUS.

biz5th said...

The proposal doesn't make a whole lot of sense as it's explained here.

Individuals won't automatically lose their coverage; they'll just lose their subsidies.

Offering "financial assistance" under COBRA is another way of saying "continue the subsidies".