Tags: Obamacare | court | Congress | Bravin

Follow-Up on Obamacare Case

By    |   Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 07:57 AM

Disappointed last Sunday that the C-SPAN program on the Obamacare case offered only the opinion of a strong supporter of the healthcare law, or perhaps because it was Sunday, this writer intended to return to the case of King v Burwell, on which the Supreme Court heard oral argument on March 4. On Wednesday C-SPAN presented four reporters before the oral argument.

Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, explained in excruciating detail how the subsidies would work. When asked by host Greta Wodele Brawner what the purpose of the subsidies was, her answer amounted to, "because the federal government wants to help people afford healthcare." A very strange wrinkle is that if the cost of healthcare for an individual exceeds 8 percent of income, under the so-called "hardship" exemption, the mandate to purchase it disappears. Also, if a business somehow can't qualify for a subsidy, the mandate would go away for them, too. To a layman, these provisions seem obviously impossible to administer, but the proponents of Obamacare are clearly committed to a Great Leap Forward.

When asked by Brawner how the case originated, Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, explained that it arose years ago from a "glitch" in the law, discovered by a lawyer in South Carolina, that critics claim limits the subsidies to exchanges run by state governments and not to those run by the federal government. When word of this argument spread within conservative circles, they decided to run with it. This particular case has been financed by a Washington think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which has mounted what Bravin called "a very impressive challenge." According to Bravin, the plaintiffs contend that without the subsidies they would qualify for the hardship exemption.

In further discussion Bravin made two interesting points. One is that while the law was under consideration, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate when the Republicans won the Massachusetts Senate seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The result was to freeze any negotiations over the bill. Though Bravin didn't say this, ultimately the freeze led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying legislators would have to pass the law to learn what was in it.

The other point is that Republicans could lose if the court were to side with the plaintiffs, because the burden would be on the Republican Congress to devise a fix, but the recent House Rules Committee hearing revealed this as a plan for a plan, not an actual plan that could be enacted.

In two other segments, lawyers for and against Obamacare discussed the brief and paper they have written, respectively, Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, for the Act, and Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, against it. The event Cato had scheduled for March 5 to discuss the case has been cancelled due to what is called "inclement" weather but is the normal nasty weather Washington has experienced this winter. Healthcare stocks reacted positively to indications that the "swing" justice on the Court, Anthony Kennedy, seems inclined to support the Act, so the prospects of plaintiffs may be a bleak as the weather.

(Video of Carey can be found here; of Bravin, here; of Wydra, here; and of Cannon, here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
Disappointed last Sunday that the C-SPAN program on the Obamacare case offered only the opinion of a strong supporter of the healthcare law, this writer intended to return to the case of King v Burwell, on which the Supreme Court heard oral argument on March 4.
Obamacare, court, Congress, Bravin
558
2015-57-05
Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 07:57 AM
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