On March 4, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in the King v. Burwell case, which is the latest court case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The case is challenging the language of the bill and challenging the legality of the IRS issuing subsidies to those who purchased healthcare on the federal exchanges. The lawsuit contends that the language of the bill says that the IRS can only issue subsidies to those who bought health insurance on the state-created exchanges. Only 14 states created their own healthcare exchanges.
If successful, this lawsuit could mean that almost five million people could lose their healthcare subsidies, which means that many would lose their health insurance.
On March 2 the Wall Street Journal published an opinions piece written by prominent congressional Republicans Paul Ryan, Fred Upton and John Kline, in which they outlined their alternative to Obamacare. Within the piece they talk about the failures they see in Obamacare.
Their comments about the case before the Supreme Court and about Obamacare are pretty typical for Republicans. They want the court to find Obamacare to be unconstitutional because the law states that subsidies should only be offered to people who buy plans “through an Exchange established by the State.” They make claims that Obamacare made insurance even more costly “by requiring plans to include Washington-determined benefits and levels of coverage” despite the fact that numerous surveys have shown that for almost half of people buying insurance their premiums would drop.
They then present their plan for offering an alternative to Obamacare. They refer to it as being an “off ramp to Obamacare.” They have two goals for this new plan:
1) Make insurance more affordable by removing the Federal Government from the health insurance market.
2) “Support Americans in purchasing the coverage of their choosing.”
Their first step would be to allow the states to opt out of the insurance mandates in Obamacare which they argue would make people choose from a wider variety of insurance options. This would be a huge departure from Obamacare’s individual mandate. However, after this point, the ACA and the Republican plan just begin to blend together.
Their next goal is to force insurers to compete for business. This is exactly what the insurance exchanges established by Obamacare were designed to do. The exchanges were set up so people shopping for health insurance could easily compare different private-insurance options. Obamacare does not force a public insurance option on people, rather it makes the private insurance industry raise its insurance standards and facilitate competition.
The Republicans go on saying they would set up “safeguards for patients.” Things like allowing a child to stay on a parent’s insurance, prohibiting lifetime limits on benefits and guaranteeing coverage of preexisting conditions. These are all things that Obamacare does.
The final similarity is the most ironic, and it is that under the Republican plan the federal government would offer insurance shoppers a tax credit to help pay for their insurance. The Republicans are trying to take away people’s insurance subsides, only to offer them right back.
Congressional Republicans have tried again and again to get rid of Obamacare. Their proposed plan makes it very apparent that they are doing this simply because Obamacare has the President’s name attached to it. Their proposed plan includes all of the same protections and goals of Obamacare. The only real difference is that it is their plan.