If Republicans are trying to show people how crucial Obamacare is, King v. Burwell could be the perfect way to do it.
The lawsuit that could end subsidies to the millions of Americans in 34 states who purchased insurance through the federal health care exchange will be argued on March 4. But we already have hints of what the impact will be if Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court gut President Obama’s signature health care law over complete nonsense.
1. $340 billion in tax credits and cost sharing reductions over the next 10 years will be revoked.
Obamacare has even turned Republicans against the thing they love the most — tax breaks. With this money and billions more in premiums suddenly sucked out of our health care system, which itself is an economy larger than Great Britain.
2. Up to 8 million people who purchased health care since Healthcare.gov opened and 5 million children who had coverage for years could lose coverage immediately, increasing the uninsured rate by 44 percent.
You know Republicans are doing something they might regret when they start giving Democrats credit for what they’re doing. In the Wall Street Journal, Republican Senator Ben Sasse says that like most conservatives, he’s “hopeful” that the court will gut the law. He then laments that the victory will result in “big insurers will be allowed to dump ObamaCare patients midyear.” This is akin to saying, “I hope the house burns down but if it does, the flames will be everywhere!
3. Premiums will rise for everyone who purchase insurance in these 34 states’ marketplaces by an average of 47 percent.
This chart from The New York Times‘ Margot Sanger-Katz shows how the Affordable Care Act reduced the costs of coverage in New York state, which already had many benefits of the ACA — including no discrimination against pre-existing conditions and community rating — but no tax credits or individual mandate. Everyone could get coverage, it was just very expensive.
If the court takes away these credits, the people who are most likely to continue getting coverage are those in greatest need of care, creating a spiral of higher prices that the law is now successfully preventing.
4. “Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real.”
Those aren’t my words. They’re Ben Sasse’s.
Millions of Americans — like Dawn Erina — who need insurance to be able to afford the care that keeps her alive would be abandoned.
Remember the uproar at the largely manufactured Obamacare “horror” stories in 2013? There will be story after story of Americans who depend on this law. And Sasse is right. They’ll be real.
5. Republicans in Congress will likely let the suffering go on.
ACASignups.net’s Charles Gaba has suggested a simple fix to keep millions of Americans insured, possibly saving the lives of 9,800 of our fellow citizens. But they won’t do it.
If we learned anything from the GOP’s inability to keep the Department of Homeland Security open for more than a week, it’s that Republicans in Congress cannot pass anything that generates even a mild controversy among the GOP base. Can you imagine the fireworks in the Senate and House from conservatives if Republicans conspire to save Obamacare as the 2016 presidential election dawns?
Thus if the court rules on behalf of the plaintiffs — who are almost all almost eligible for Medicare — it will be on Republican governors and legislatures to act. Sasse is trying to circumvent any action by the states for fear that “If governors cave, ObamaCare is never going away.” He’s using his conservative clout to suggest a sort of COBRA for those now receiving credits.
Such displays are for show, I’d argue. It’s faux scaffolding being built to give Roberts the “guts” to gut the law.
The American Prospect‘s Paul Waldman thinks that Republicans will eventually cave when the polls show their blame Obama tact fails. I doubt it. That hasn’t happened anywhere with Medicaid expansion. Their base will not let them sanctify this law — not without seeking revenge. And by then Republicans will probably wish they just left Obamacare alone. But who knows?
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent sums the situation up best, “Bottom line: This story doesn’t end with such a ruling, and no one can really predict where it will go next.”
[CC image via LaDawna Howard |Flickr.com]