In anticipation of the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid pondered the justices’ literacy. “I hope the Supreme Court can read English,” he mused.
Millions of Americans are wondering the same thing.
ObamaCare’s text clearly grants subsidies only to individuals purchasing coverage in exchanges “established by the State.” Yet the court decided to allow subsidies to continue to flow through the 34 states that use the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov.
For the second time in three years, the Supreme Court has twisted itself in knots to preserve ObamaCare. But while this ruling is a temporary victory for the president and his allies, the war isn’t over. The Republican-led Congress can use a budgetary procedure called “reconciliation” to repeal ObamaCare — and replace it with market-friendly, patient-centered reforms.
In a 6-3 King v. Burwell ruling in favor of ObamaCare, the high court approved a 2012 IRS regulation that directs billions of taxpayer dollars toward subsidies. The majority ignored the fact that the Constitution gives Congress — not the Obama administration’s IRS — the power to authorize such subsidies.
Putting People To Work
The court ruling also saved ObamaCare’s employer mandate. Under the law, employers who do not provide insurance coverage incur penalties if at least one employee receives a federal subsidy. No subsidies, no employer mandate, no penalties. That would’ve rendered the mandate impotent.
The disappearance of the employer mandate would have revived the job market by releasing 262,000 businesses from its restrictive clutches. The American Action Forum projected that a victory for King against ObamaCare would have added more than 1.2 million people to the workforce by 2017.
The employer mandate requires firms with 100 or more workers to offer health coverage to all who work “full-time” — defined as more than 30 hours a week. Naturally, business owners have cut hours and put off hiring to avoid falling afoul of the mandate.
As a result, 3.3 million Americans are working part-time rather than full-time. The high court’s decision effectively has deprived them of additional hours — and higher paychecks.
As the costs and restrictions imposed by ObamaCare continue to pile up — higher premiums, higher deductibles, and limited networks of doctors and hospitals — more Americans will join the majority that already oppose the law.
Congress should listen to them — and restore freedom and patient choice to health care.
There are several obstacles to advancing effective reform, but Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of Congress. Ordinarily, they’d need 60 votes in the Senate to ward off a Democratic filibuster and tee up legislation for final approval.
Fortunately, the GOP can bypass this problem. Under reconciliation, only a simple majority is needed to pass bills related to budgetary matters. Republicans could put forward legislation defunding ObamaCare with only 51 votes.
Reconciliation is fair play. Democrats used it to pass ObamaCare in the Senate in 2010.
Any defunding bill will be subject to a veto, of course. But if the Republicans pass such a bill and pair it with a replacement plan of their own, the party can show the American people its commitment to fixing our broken health care system. Such a move will also give the eventual GOP presidential nominee a strong and viable proposal to stump for during the 2016 campaign.
That replacement plan must harness market forces to ensure access to affordable, high-quality care — without sacrificing patients’ freedom to choose the coverage that suits their needs and budget.
Rep. Tom Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” stands out as a good starting point for the GOP. It centers on a system of refundable tax credits based on age that will ensure that health coverage remains affordable for all Americans.
For example, those over 50 years of age would receive a credit for $3,000. The plan would also seed state-based high-risk pools to ensure that those with pre-existing conditions can get affordable coverage — without raising premiums for everyone else.
The Supreme Court has twice failed to undo the wreckage ObamaCare has wrought. The GOP Congress must now show that it can get health reform right by empowering doctors and patients — not the federal government.