Obama Administration Prepared for Adverse King Ruling, Despite Statements to Contrary

Published February 25, 2015

The Obama administration is apparently claiming they have no plan in the event the U.S. Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell that health insurance subsidies are only available through exchanges established by states, not the federal government. Here’s a Reuters story published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazett:

U.S. health official says no fix if Obamacare subsidies thrown out

The Obama administration has no way to repair the damage that would result from a Supreme Court decision against Obamacare that would make health care unaffordable for millions of Americans, a top health adviser said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on whether residents in at least 34 U.S. states are eligible for federal tax subsidies to help them buy health coverage under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 4. Conservative plaintiffs argue that the federal funds cannot pay for insurance in states that did not create their own health insurance exchanges and instead rely on the administration’s HealthCare.gov website.

“We know of no administrative actions that could, and therefore we have no plans that would, undo the massive damage to our health care system that would be caused by an adverse decision,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell wrote in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah…

This is nonsense of course. The administration has two very obvious plans, first to exert enormous amounts of political pressure on Congressional Republicans to add the words “or the federal government” right after the words “establshed by the state” in Obamacare, the second to exert enormous amounts of pressure on states that didn’t set up exchanges to do so now.

Politically speaking, it’s a terrific plan. The only question is, will Republicans in Congress be able to come up with something better, and will state legislators around the country be able to resist the pressure? I feel a lot better about the latter than the former, and if Congressional Republicans think they can simply sit back and have a good laugh over the sheer ineptitude of the people who wrote and passed Obamacare in the first place, I suspect they’ll stop laughing when a new Democratic president and Congressional majority takes office in 2017.