Tomorrow is the day the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in King vs. Burwell, and all the talk is about what Congress will do if the Supreme Court directs the Administration to obey the law by not paying subsidies in the majority of states, which have declined to establish their own Obamacare exchanges and defaulted to the federal one.
The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed (available by subscription) by John Kline, Paul Ryan, and Fred Upton, who chair committees of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives that will be tasked with proposing a Congressional response to this decision. Here’s what they write:
Let people buy insurance across state lines. Stop frivolous lawsuits by enacting medical-liability reform. Let small businesses band together so they get a fair deal from insurance companies.
There’s a lot more, but these three items are unexciting. This blog has published a range of views on the question of buying health insurance “across state lines”. My colleague Devon Herrick supports the policy. I am extremely skeptical. (I am not the only conservative critic: See Dean Clancy at The Federalist.)
With respect to medical-malpractice reform, I’ve never found authority for Congress to step into the mix. And the trend to reform in states is well underway.
The final proposal, about small businesses banding together to buy health insurance, is usually referred to as “association health plans.” First, I am not aware of any law in any state that prevents small businesses from “banding together” to buy health insurance any more than there are laws preventing them from banding together to buy office furniture or computer software.
Second, the “original sin” of American health insurance is the discrimination in the tax code against individually owned benefits and in favor of employer-based benefits. (To their credit, the three Republican leaders recognize this). Suppose the tax code stated that you would not get a mortgage-interest tax deduction for your own home, but the one your employer chose for you? Would the solution be to allow “small businesses to band together so that they get a fair deal from residential realtors”?
I regret to conclude that Congressional Republicans are still catching and presenting red herrings as trophy fish in their health-reform proposals.