(A version of this Health Alert was published in The Hill on June 3, 2015.)
One day in June or July, Congress may well have the opportunity to re-open the Affordable Care Act. Congress will not be able to repeal it, but it may be able to induce President Obama to sign amendments that significantly reduce the harm Obamacare has caused.
The grounds would be a Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, a case which seeks to make the Obama Administration enforce the Affordable Care Act as written, instead of according to the President’s shifting political priorities. The instances in which the Administration has changed the law without Congressional amendment are numerous.
The one at question in King v. Burwell is the Administration’s paying tax credits to health insurers offering Obamacare plans in 34 states with federally facilitated exchanges. As a result of these tax credits, people who buy health insurance on exchanges pay premiums much lower than the otherwise would. If the plaintiffs prevail, these tax credits will stop and premiums will go up. Many people will decide to drop coverage. On the other hand, tax credits will continue to be paid in the 16 states (plus the District of Columbia) which have state-based exchanges.
This is not a politically tenable situation, and both Congress and the President have an incentive to fix it as quickly as possible. Congressional Republicans have promised an offer which will be acceptable to the President while mitigating the worst effects of Obamacare. However, they have not rallied around unified response.
One reason may be that many Representatives and Senators are benefitting from another illegal payment of public monies the Administration is using to prop up Obamacare. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, one sticking point was that politicians were proposing to impose an unpopular health insurance “reform” on vulnerable citizens while leaving their own generous health benefits untouched. Members of Congress and their staff have long been covered by the same health plan that unionized federal public servants enjoy.
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