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Doug Badger: Is Obamacare What We Deserve? June 4, 2015

By Doug Badger

A Brief Case, May 21, 2015

For 20 years, I was afraid.  Afraid of getting sick and not having health insurance.  But when I got cancer, I finally had a health plan that I could afford.  Without it, I wouldn’t be here…I’ll always remember how affordable health care saved my life.  I believe everyone deserves the same chance I had.  Don’t you?  Julie, the protagonist of a recent ad promoting Obamacare

The Supreme Court next month will issue a ruling that could result in Julie losing the health insurance coverage she feels she deserves.

At issue is whether the IRS acted unlawfully in extending tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to an estimated 7.5 million Americans and in collecting billions in tax penalties from millions of uninsured people.  The law creating Obamacare authorizes these subsidies and penalties only in states that have established their own health insurance exchanges.  Julie lives in Tennessee, one of 34 states that have not done so.  She obtained coverage through an exchange established by HHS, not by her state.

A decision that strikes down subsidies in those 34 states would confront Republicans with a critical moment.  It would, on the one hand, deal a crippling blow to the Administration and its star-crossed law.  On the other, Republican Governors and Members of Congress would face some very stark choices on what to do about Julie and millions like her.

The President will demand a do-over.  He signed a defective law and has administered it lawlessly and with breathtaking incompetence. But don’t expect an apology.  Instead, he will rail against the Court for calling out his illegal improvisations and insist that Congress rewrite the law to retroactively legitimize his illegitimate actions.

Congressional Republicans are not inclined to go along.  Most will likely favor providing some sort of transitional assistance to Julie, though the form this transition takes and where the transition should lead remains the subject of ongoing discussion.

Some conservatives can be expected to resist providing even transitional relief.  They argue that restoring subsidies in those 34 states also would reinstate the employer mandate and the tax on the uninsured, provisions they find especially odious.  If the Supreme Court has effectively repealed Obamacare in most states, why should Congress un-repeal it?

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