Tags: MidPoint | John Thune | Obamacare | alternative | Supreme Court

Sen. Thune: Alternative in Works If Court Rules Against ACA

By    |   Thursday, 05 March 2015 03:30 PM

If a Supreme Court majority eliminates government subsidies for insurance purchased through HealthCare.gov, Congress will have a backup plan in place to protect millions of policy holders from a sudden spike in premiums, Sen. John Thune told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

Any fallback "will inevitably include ensuring that the people who are currently on the exchanges — who are getting their insurance through Obamacare and receiving subsidies — are held harmless for some period of time," Thune told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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The South Dakota Republican and Senate Commerce Committee chairman said that an interim arrangement to cushion policyholders against sticker shock would last "until we can transition … to a better free-market-type approach to healthcare."

He said the optimal replacement for the Affordable Care Act would be a marketplace in which people shopping for coverage "can get a refundable tax credit and have options and choices, and allow the competitive marketplace to work, as opposed to having this one-size-fits-all, government-approved healthcare that people are required to have."

In the near term, said Thune, Congress has to prepare for whatever comes next, now that the closely-divided court has heard oral arguments for and against allowing the subsidies to be offered through the federal exchange. A ruling is expected in late June or early July.

The plaintiffs argued that the plain language of the Affordable Care Act requires any subsidies to be offered exclusively through healthcare exchanges established by states, not through the federal HealthCare.gov portal. 

If five justices agree — and Thune said they ought to — an estimated 7.5 million people in 34 states would lose the subsidies that came with their health insurance.

Some experts predict that such a ruling would gut the Affordable Care Act by removing one of its pillars — subsidized coverage for low- and middle-income policy holders.

Thune agreed with Berliner that Republicans will shoulder more blame than Democrats for a ruling against the subsidies.

The White House is pointedly not proposing a fallback, with President Barack Obama arguing there is no "plausible legal basis" for the court to rule against his signature healthcare overhaul.

So it has fallen to Republicans in both chambers to devise a plan B.

Thune said that Republicans, in addition to creating a workable replacement, will have to make the case that the current health law's designers were the cause of its demise, and that a less-regulated, interstate insurance marketplace will ultimately prove more beneficial.

"We're going to have to reiterate the arguments that we made in the past, that this government-run health care doesn't work," he said. "Clearly, there have been so many problems with this, so many people who have lost coverage, who've seen increases in their premiums, who don't have access to the doctors and the hospitals they had previously. These are all examples of why this thing has been such a colossal failure.

"We have to remind people of why that happened," he said. "When a government takes over 1/6th of the economy, this is the kind of outcome that you get, and all the litigation that's come out of it."

Thune also discussed efforts to get around the president's veto of the Keystone XL pipeline bill and said the fight to build the transcontinental oil line continues.

He also talked about Congress looking to overturn the Feb. 26 net neutrality ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that critics have called a government takeover of the Internet.

Using the appropriations process is "a way to get to the FCC," said Thune, commenting on a House proposal to stop net neutrality by defunding any enforcement of it.

"But we have to be thinking about how do we get the end result?" he said, noting that any defunding legislation would "end up getting vetoed" by President Obama, who approves of the FCC's decision to regulate Internet service like a public utility in order to keep all online data moving at one speed.

He called the FCC's ruling "consistent with this administration's approach to every issue, and that is 'government knows best,' 'more government is better.'

"And with the Internet, we've had two decades of experience now with the light regulatory touch and the question should be, why do you want to change something that's working?" said Thune.

Thune predicted "a really bad outcome for consumers, investors, and everybody who uses the Internet in this country" under the new rules.

But on an up note, he said: "We believe there are Democrats — not in the White House, but on Capitol Hill — who realize what a disaster having the FCC regulate the Internet under a 1934 law, like a public utility, is going to create."

In the Senate, he said, "we've got a six-page bill — unlike [the FCC's] 317-page order — that addresses those concerns."

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If a Supreme Court majority eliminates government subsidies for insurance purchased through HealthCare.gov, Congress will have a backup plan in place to protect millions of policy holders from a sudden spike in premiums, Sen. John Thune told Newsmax TV.
John Thune, Obamacare, alternative, Supreme Court
Thursday, 05 March 2015 03:30 PM
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