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The Court and Obamacare

December 17, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Probably no later than next June, we can expect the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Obama administration can provide subsidies for Obamacarethrough federally run exchanges despite explicit language in the law that limits subsidies to “an exchange established by a State.”

There is no guarantee, of course, about how the Court will rule. The language of the statute is clear, and the ever-loquacious Jonathan Gruber has stated that the law was set up that way to entice states into establishing their own exchanges. And the fact that the Court reached down to take this case even before the legal process had fully played out in the lower courts suggests that several justices believe the challenge has merit.

But one never knows whether the justices will twist themselves into John Roberts–like pretzels in their desire to avoid upending a president’s signature legislative accomplishment.

Opponents of Obamacare should also realize that even if the Court upholds the challenge to Obamacare’s subsidies, it would not actually strike down the law. Obamacare’s insurance regulations, for example, would largely remain on the books. In fact, it could truthfully be said that what the Court would actually be doing is ordering Obamacare to be implemented exactly as written.

Among Obamacare opponents there will be satisfaction and a widespread feeling of vindication. But after the cheering dies down, what happens next?

If the Court upholds the challenge, some 5 million people in 32 states would lose their subsidies, meaning they would suddenly have to pay more, sometimes much more, for insurance. Not surprisingly, supporters of Obamacare have reacted to the possibility with near hysteria. The American Prospect warned of a “swath of human misery, stretching from horizon to horizon.” Salon concurs, arguing that “people will die.” Brian Beutler in The New Republic agrees that this decision is “a matter of life and death” and proclaims that the Supreme Court has become “a death panel.”

Republicans had better be prepared with something better than Obamacare Lite.”

Back in the real world, such drastic outcomes are unlikely. Of course, the predictions do raise the question of why, if liberals truly believe such things, the administration continues to enroll people in Obamacare without even warning them that their subsidies might be at risk.

Still, it is true that, if the Court does insist on the law as written, a great many Americans are going to be very unhappy once they see their new insurance premiums. That …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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