I was not surprised that a divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that millions of Americans are not entitled to government health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act because of the way the law is written. The law was pretty clear that the only people eligible for subsidies were those who purchased their health insurance via state exchanges so the only remaining question was whether the court was willing to bail out the Democratic Party for a poorly written law. The Democratic Party owns all of the successes and problems with the Affordable Care Act. They were so giddy after the elections in 2008 that they chose to go it alone on health care reform. They reasoned that the law was going to be such a rousing success that they would be in power for the next thirty years. Now a Republican Congress is stuck with the problem of trying to fix the health care laws and I doubt they are willing to take the risk of being accused of putting lipstick on this pig. Here is what Greg Scandlen said in an article over at the The Federalist called Three Conservative Ideas Buried Within Obamacare.
The political spinmeisters are already getting positioned for the next round of health care debates. They don’t really much care what happens as long as they can give their team credit for anything that seems to be good and blame the other team for anything that seems to be bad.
So Republicans want to be sure that whatever they do bears no resemblance to Obamacare, and Democrats will pounce on anything that seems similar to Obamacare as a vindication of that noble effort.
Since this is an election year and the ruling is being appealed, it is probably in our best interests to not fix this problem in 2014. Maybe by the end of 2014 we can find a few humble men and women who can work together. By then we will probably have a better estimate of the number of people who are affected, the impact of the insurance risk corridor, and the total costs to the budget. The best case scenario for a subsidy fix is that we pass a partial, non-partisan reform in 2015 with a 2016 implementation date. Maybe we will get a longer postponement of the individual and employer mandates as part of the deal. Any way you look at it you have chuckle at the naivety of Ms. Pelosi’s famous comment about the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
The Affordable Care Act is a grim reminder that large “comprehensive reform” strategies satisfy the political gods a whole lot better than the American people. The politics of getting policies that actually work still requires bipartisan support and lots of hard work. The Affordable Care Act had neither and it shows.