As observers await a Supreme Court decision in the case against Obamacare subsidies, Republican lawmakers are taking up the challenge of drafting a replacement for the historic healthcare law in the event the plaintiffs prevail.
According to The New York Times
, senior Republicans on both sides of Congress are developing proposals that would determine the fate of the 7.5 million American in 34 states who — depending on the outcome of King v. Burwell — could lose the financial support afforded to them through the federal exchange.
In the House, Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Fred Upton of Michigan, and John Kline of Minnesota
have proposed an "off ramp" that would allow states to opt out of the law's main requirements.
Their plan, which they call an "off-ramp ... toward patient-centered healthcare," would replace the subsidies with tax credits available to consumers whenever needed, not just during tax filing season. At the same time, states would be allowed to opt out of Obamacare's individual and employer mandates.
In the Senate, Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Orrin Hatch of Utah
have put forward a plan to offer temporary assistance to those who would lose their subsidies, while giving states more flexibility to design their healthcare exchanges without the law's mandates.
The Senate proposal is much less detailed than that put forward in the House because, Barrasso said, the necessary specifics depend on the high court's ruling.
"We can't really say, 'This is the definitive answer,' when we don't know what the Supreme Court's going to do," Barrasso told The Hill.
Besides, he added, "Barack Obama's not going to sign a full replacement of Obamacare. That can only be done after a presidential election in 2016."
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in June.
Another proposal put forward by Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska would extend COBRA coverage temporarily, so that workers can keep their employer-based health benefits after leaving a job to prevent a rise in the uninsured as Congress debates a suitable replacement for Obamacare, the Times reported.
"Finally there are a whole bunch of people stepping up to the plate," Sasse said, according to the Times.
Republicans have been buoyed by statements made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who on the last day of oral arguments Wednesday suggested that Congress would find a solution in the event that the court strikes down the subsidies, The Hill
"With all of the fear-mongering by the administration that things are going to be disastrous if the Supreme Court rules one way, Justice Scalia said, 'No, Congress will act,'" Barrasso said, according to The Hill.
"So I was encouraged by that, because we are committed to doing that."
On the House side, Ryan, Upton and Kline issued a statement following the court's adjournment.
"The law is clear — and the Supreme Court should order the IRS to enforce the law as it is written," they said in a statement, according to The Hill. "If it does, we will be ready to act."
Democrats say Republicans are simply trying to send a message to the court so as to encourage a decision against the subsidies.
"They're trying to wink at the Supreme Court and say, 'Go ahead, destroy the [Affordable Care Act], because we have an alternative,'" Michigan Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin said, according to The Hill.
The outcome of the case remains unclear, as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy appear to have the deciding votes and have given little indication
about which way they are leaning.
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