A Supreme Court ruling against the Obama administration in King v. Burwell, according to conventional Beltway wisdom, will create serious political problems for governors and legislators in the 34 states that declined to set up Obamacare insurance exchanges. Most of these officials are Republicans, the thinking goes, and will thus be blamed for letting petty partisanship deprive their constituents of subsidies while plunging state insurance markets into chaos. Public wrath, we are told, will eventually force them to create PPACA exchanges. However, a new voter survey conducted in the affected states suggests that this is very unlikely to occur.
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When will John Boehner learn that a bill is bad news if Nancy Pelosi supports it, President Obama wants to sign it, and the press sings its praises? That’s precisely what he had on his hands with H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, a.k.a. the “Doc Fix.” Yet today we find him basking in the approbation of the Beltway establishment for getting this bill passed. This “fix” will add billions to the federal deficit, replace an unworkable price control system with a worse scheme that will dictate how doctors practice medicine and place financial burdens on seniors.
Obamacare’s boosters have made so many implausible assertions about its supposed successes that it’s difficult to single out one as the most preposterous. But any list of their most comical claims would have to include those involving the law’s “wayback clause.” Haven’t heard of that one? Well, like the provision authorizing the IRS to issue subsidies via federal exchanges, it’s absent from PPACA’s text. Nonetheless, its efficacy is routinely touted by Obamacare’s proponents as proof that “reform” works.
The most celebrated effect of this amazing provision is its retroactive reduction of medical inflation during the years preceding the law’s implementation. Obamacare was passed in 2010. However, except for a few minor provisions, it didn’t go into effect until 2014. Yet the law’s wayback clause is such a powerful cost control tool that it has been able to traverse the time-space continuum and slow the rate of health care inflation, as the President himself has phrased it, “every single year since the law passed.”
If you carefully consider the claims of Obamacare’s defenders in King v. Burwell you will discover that their worst fear, sanctimonious pretense notwithstanding, is not the loss of insurance subsidies for some Americans. The most terrifying prospect for proponents of PPACA is that the Court will let Congress clean up its own mess. They do not want our elected representatives to have another chance to consider the will of the voters while revising Obamacare. And this is precisely what will happen if the justices fail to find anything in the law’s text permitting subsidies to be distributed via federal exchanges.
Supporters of the “Affordable Care Act” have been rather glum of late. Since the Supreme Court agreed to hear King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that challenges the Obama administration’s decision to funnel insurance subsidies through federal exchanges established in the 36 states that refused to create PPACA “marketplaces,” they have rather ironically bemoaned the possibility that five unelected justices could do irreparable damage to the law with one “wrong ruling.” Consequently, they have desperately grasped at a thin straw tossed their way by Justice Anthony Kennedy during Wednesday’s oral arguments about the case.
John Adams, in a 1775 essay referencing the Roman historian Livy and other sources, wrote that a republic was “a nation of laws, not of men.” As recently as fifty years ago, most Americans would have intuitively understood his point and why it was relevant to their lives. Today, it isn’t clear that the President of the United States, the leaders of the Democratic Party, or the members of our “news” media would grasp the meaning of Adams’ words, much less that they still matter today. We will soon discover if the same can be said of the Supreme Court.
Last week, the White House took to Twitter for purposes of publicizing its latest Obamacare enrollment blarney. Far more informative than the tweet’s fictitious sign-up numbers was the schmaltzy video to which it was linked. Staged in the Oval Office, this one-act farce features a simpering HHS Secretary briefing our Thespian in Chief, who then delivers the following soliloquy: “The Affordable Care Act is working. It’s working better than we anticipated. It’s certainly working a lot better than many of the critics talked about early on.” In Obama’s 27-word script, “working” appears three times. The President doth protest too much, methinks.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell three weeks from now, and the possibility that the justices might uphold the health care “reform” law as written has driven our liberal friends to the edge of lunacy. This is never a long journey for anyone on the left, of course, but they have arrived at the precipice with unusual alacrity this time. Their predictions about the outcome should the Court rule that “established by the state” actually means “established by the state” have gone from the merely portentous to the downright apocalyptic in only a few months.
When it became obvious a couple of years ago that Obamacare would accelerate health care inflation, the law’s boosters began claiming that cost control was never its primary goal. PPACA’s promoters had previously promised that it would reduce annual health care expenses by $2,500 per family while improving access and quality of care. But the facts forced them to abandon that pledge and adopt a safer party line. As expressed by the New York Times, the new story goes thus: “At its most basic level, the Affordable Care Act was intended to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.”
I put off reading Steven Brill’s new book for much the same reason I procrastinate when it’s time to clean the gutters on my house. I was sure it would be a boring chore that would leave me yearning for a shower. A previous encounter with this writer’s work in a 2013 edition of Time suggested that this tome would contain a catalogue of canards about U.S. health care, a tendentious account of the tawdry political process that produced Obamacare, and some hare-brained theory on how to fix our medical delivery system once and for all.