Counterpoint: GOP leaders have a better option

If you like your coverage, you can keep your coverage. That’s the pledge leading members of Congress are making to six million Americans who are at risk of losing their health insurance once again because of the Obama administration.

At issue is a case before the Supreme Court challenging an IRS rule that allowed health insurance subsidies to flow through exchanges created by the federal government – the infamous website. The Affordable Care Act says at least nine times that subsidies are available to citizens only if their states create an exchange. In the end, 37 states either declined or failed to do so.

Supporters of the ACA are using scare tactics, saying millions of people would lose their subsidies and likely their health insurance if the court decides the IRS rule is illegal. They say Congress won’t act and states either can’t or won’t set up their own exchanges.

But they ignore commitments by House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other congressional leaders to give states another option.

Congress is making plans now to pass legislation after the Supreme Court issues its decision, likely in June. The proposed legislation would create a safety-net so people wouldn’t lose their current coverage and also would allow them to use their subsidies to select any policy approved by a state. Millions of people could escape ObamaCare’s onerous mandates and choose more flexible, affordable policies.

The chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction in the House – Reps. Paul Ryan (WI), Fred Upton (MI), and John Kline (MN) – have publicly pledged to provide immediate financial assistance “to help Americans keep the coverage they picked” while giving them more choices of more affordable insurance “by ending Washington mandates and giving choice back to states, individuals and families.”

The chairs of the key Senate committees – Orrin Hatch (UT), Lamar Alexander (TN), and John Barrasso (WY) – agree “It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage.” They are committed to protecting “Americans harmed by the administration’s actions” and to giving “states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices.”

And Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who chairs the Republican Governors Association’s policy committee, said governors are “eager to have other options. We want to make sure people are able to keep their health insurance, but many governors do not want to be forced to create a state exchange or see our citizens lose coverage. We hope that Congress would offer targeted, temporary relief for people to maintain their current coverage while we work together on free-market, consumer-friendly solutions for the future,” Gov. Fallin wrote in a newspaper commentary.

That is precisely the plan congressional leaders are working on. Skeptics say Congress is broken and could never pass the legislation, but they should look to the recent Medicare legislation that passed with broad bi-partisan support in the House by 392 to 37 and by 92 to 8 in the Senate as evidence of their commitment to act.

Here’s the bottom line: In 2012, the Obama administration panicked when it saw so many states blocking its health law. It directed the IRS to write an illegal rule so the president’s signature law didn’t fizzle at launch. The larger issue before the Supreme Court is the Rule of Law and whether the administration can illegally rewrite a law without approval of Congress to suit the president’s political goals.

The case provides a chance for the Supreme Court to tell the IRS it, too, must follow the law. And as Congress fixes the mess the IRS created, it can also begin moving toward the right kind of health reform that puts consumers, not government bureaucrats, in charge of health insurance choices. Freedom can prevail.

Posted on Austin American Statesman, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, The Fresno Bee, and dozens of other publications. 


About the author

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform. Full biography