Tags: Healthcare Reform | Supreme Court | obamacare | subsidies | king v. burwell | congress | gop

Congressional GOP Mulls Backing Obamacare Subsidies

By    |   Friday, 24 April 2015 09:37 AM

Congressional Republicans are considering plans that could allow Americans to temporarily keep their Obamacare policies and subsidies, even if the Supreme Court strikes down those subsidies in June.

There are already more than a half-dozen competing plans under discussion in response to the King v. Burwell case, which will determine if people who buy coverage on the federal healthcare exchange are entitled to subsidies, reports The Hill.

The plaintiffs in the landmark case say people who get subsidies through the federal exchange are getting them illegally, as the Affordable Care Act says that such aid is available only through state-established healthcare exchanges. But the Obama administration is arguing that when the bill passed, Congress intended for the subsidies to help everyone who enrolls in the program.

Republicans hope to have just one plan in place when the Supreme Court makes its final ruling in June, reports The Hill, and that plan could make or break GOP candidates in the 2016 election. More than 7.5 million people could lose the subsidies they need to finance their healthcare plans, and people in the red states are expected to be hit particularly hard.

Conservative lawmakers are bucking against a backup plan, however, as they want to repeal Obamacare altogether.

"I think it will be extraordinarily difficult," said House Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole, R-Okla., about coming to a final plan. "That’s why I’m glad I’m just a humble appropriator."

One such plan, proposed by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who is seeking re-election next year, would allow Americans to keep their Obamacare plans and subsidies until 2017, in hopes an Republican president will be elected and enact more changes from the White House.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is calling for a different plan: he wants new tax credits to be issued to help people who lose their subsidies. Such a plan, Sasse said, would not work to "resuscitate" Obamacare because it would not return the old subsidies.

Johnson said his plan is simpler and does not require new tax credits, but admits it was not without risk for him to advocate a plan that does not completely repeal Obamacare.
His plan, though, is already gaining support and has 30 co-sponsors that include Senate leaders.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he backs both plans, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who leads a Senate working group on the King v. Burwell case, also agrees with several plans.

In addition to co-sponsoring Johnson's plan, he also is co-sponsor for a separate bill from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to repeal most of Obamacare.

"There are a number of different proposals out there, but all of them say … we want to protect those people for a period of time until we can get the decision to be made at the state level," Barrasso said Thursday. "I think you can define it how you want, but we want to make sure those people are protected as we transition away from the healthcare law."

Another group of House Republicans, which includes House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has a plan to provide permanent tax credits to help people buy insurance and allows states to opt out of Obamacare.

Still another faction, the conservative Republican Study Committee led by Reps. Bill Flores of Texas and Phil Roe of Tennessee, plans to release its own Obamacare alternative next month, reports The Hill, but Flores and Roe said they have not decided if subsidies should be extended.

"I'm not saying there should absolutely not be a bridge, I’m not saying there should absolutely be a bridge," Flores said. "If we start building toward a shore, but we don’t know what that shore is, then the bridge might not work very well."

Meanwhile, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told a Senate Homeland Security Committee earlier this month that he is not preparing for the Supreme Court decision, reports The Hill, because that responsibility, he said, rests with the White House, Congress and the states.

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Congressional Republicans are considering plans that could allow Americans to temporarily keep their Obamacare policies and subsidies, even if the Supreme Court strikes down those subsidies in June.
obamacare, subsidies, king v. burwell, congress, gop
Friday, 24 April 2015 09:37 AM
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