The Supreme Court will soon decide King v. Burwell and the fate of the health coverage of 8 million or so Americans in states that chose not to build an Affordable Care Act marketplace.
It’s difficult to understate how ridiculous the argument the guys who want to destroy Obamacare are making in this case is. But I suppose it’s no more ridiculous than Mitt Romney running as the guy who’d repeal national Romneycare or Jeb Bush arguing he’s the guy to fix Iraq.
The would-be Obamacare destroyers argue the law contained a secret threat that would allow Republicans to sabotage their states health care exchanges. This secret threat was included even though there was a very non-secret threat that forced them to take Medicaid expansion so that the Republicans couldn’t sabotage the law. It was such a secret that a Republican Senator who toiled on the bill for months has no idea what the hell these would-be Obamacare destroyers are talking about.
But it doesn’t really matter.
“At bottom, King v. Burwell is a political challenge to the ACA dressed up in legal garb,” constitutional law professor Eric Segal wrote in The Atlantic.
Republicans have four votes for pretty much anything on the Supreme Court — which is one reason why we should be so terrified that the next president could have the chance to add as many as three more stalwart conservative partisans to the Court. The fifth vote either depends on John Roberts concerns for his court’s legitimacy or Anthony Kennedy getting the pangs of good sense that usually only arise in him when deciding a case that involves gay rights.
We have no idea how the court will rule. But we do know how Republicans will react if they get their way and the law is gutted: They will do nothing and blame Obama.
We know this because even the proposed fixes they’ve offered have been deemed utterly “worthless” by actuaries.
We know this because any Republican who takes a vote that’s deemed to “save” Obamacare will be primaried on his way to being primaried.
We know this because when the Supreme Court ruled states could turn down Medicaid expansion without consequences to its existing program, nearly every Republican-led state did so, leaving millions uninsured. Republicans have paid no political price for leaving thousands to die for lack of coverage — not even in Texas, Florida and Georgia, which have some of the highest uninsured populations in the nation.
You could argue Republicans might be more prone to act given that this ruling would explicitly hit middle class voters who are more likely vote than the working poor being denied Medicaid expansion. You may say Republicans won’t go into a presidential year endorsing the largest middle class tax increase in recent memory.
You’re going to be wrong.
After weighing out their three possible reactions, The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent identified what may be “the GOP default plan,” which is to pass nothing, and blame Obama for creating a law that resulted in the Court gutting health coverage for millions, after lulling all those people into a false sense of economic security that was then snatched away by his incompetence.”
And this will be good enough for Republican primary voters, who are all that will matter to most Republican politicans until well after there’s any chance of Congress acting to help those who could easily lose their coverage.
There will be fights on the state level. In Michigan, for instance, where Governor Rick Snyder called for a state exchange but was rebuffed by Republicans in the legislature, there is some hope of getting the state to act to restore the credits — especially since Snyder isn’t running for president.
But on the whole, Republicans cannot act to save this law. Doing so would reject the central tenet of their faith “Obamacare: bad” and confirm to American that for tens of millions of Americans, Obamacare is working.
Democrats should be preparing for the worst. They should spend the month of June simultaneously touting the successes of the law and the potential horror stories for those who could lose coverage. And, if the Court rules in favor of the Obamacare destroyers, do not count on affection for this law, which has been traumatized with a billion dollars in false attacks. Instead, Democrats need to connect this to the broader Republican attack on the safety net.
If Republicans will take away Obamacare for 8 million, Democrats should repeat with robotic message discipline that usually only Republicans are capable of, they’ll take away your Medicare and the Medicaid that pays your aunt’s nursing home. Republicans broke this promise to middle-class Americans and Republicans must fix it now.
[Image by Fibonacci Blue | Flickr]