Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell. Depending on how the Supreme Court decides, the challenge could effectively rip out the tax credits that make the Affordable Care Act affordable. So what’s so important about King v. Burwell and what can happen if the Supreme Court decides against Obamacare?
The challenge hinges on just four words in the Affordable care act. According to 26 U.S.C. 36(b)(2)(A), the premiums of taxpayers “which were enrolled through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 of the Patient protection and Affordable Care act…” are eligible for tax credits. The plaintiff in Burwell argues that this means that anyone who purchases healthcare through the federal exchange is ineligible for tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The defense contends that this is not so and the Supreme Court will have to decide.
Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the tax credits have been issued equally to individuals, without considering whether they purchased their insurance from a federal or state exchange.
If the Supreme Court does find that the Plaintiff’s reading of the healthcare law is correct, it would instantly make health insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans and throw the health care insurance markets into turmoil.
Republicans control both houses, will they simply let the health care insurance markets fall into disorder and let the people left without affordable insurance suffer and potentially die without healthcare? No.
Nearly nine and a half million Americans would lose their health insurance and premiums would increase by over a third, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute. Republicans would not want to take the heat for those increases. They would have to clean up the mess they will make.
It looks like they are already considering how they would try to keep the Affordable Care Act alive, if the conservative attack succeeds at the Supreme Court. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso, said that “Republicans have a plan to create a bridge away from Obamacare.”
The article is devoid of any specifics and only contains the vague allusion that Republicans “would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period.” Basically, if we break Obamacare, we don’t know how to fix it but we won’t let everything fall apart.
Beyond that though, even if Senate Republicans did have a plan to save Obamacare, it is beyond impossible to think they could pass it. House Republicans would stop it at every opportunity. Just look at the recent fight the Republicans have gone through internally over funding the Department of Homeland Security.
If the GOP can’t unite to fund the Department of Homeland security, they certainly can’t come together to repair a health care system thrown into disarray by a conservative campaign and Supreme Court decision against the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans may just break the health care system in the US yet. And despite all of their posturing it appears that they have no idea what to do after.
The Republicans, Basically.