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Obamacare subsidy rules overturned by Republican judges.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.


The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

Done in by a drafting error.  Huh.

I think I am being too hopeful about it being the end of the beginning and that maybe the country will get serious about a national healthcare policy that includes true universal responsibilities and cost controls.  After all, if you’re still receiving insurance from your employer, there’s probably no rush on your part.  You probably feel either distant compassion for those of us poor souls who have to put up with this ACA crap or indignant that we are insufficiently grateful for the miserly coverage we are forced to pay for.

But the Republicans might have done us a favor for being the obstinate, selfish, mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising assholes that they are.  At some point, the sheer weight of all of this pigheadedness, coupled with insurance insecurity, may actually provoke a backlash against them and we could end up with Democratic congresspersons motivated to actually fix the gigantic flaws in this byzantine, unworkable and deeply unsatisfying act.

Well, we can dream.

Update: Top comment from the NYTimes article on the same subject shows the bitterness towards the Democrats who compromised too much:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 hour ago

Someday, our nation will adopt single payer. The Democrats in name only in Congress sold the people down-the-river by failing to adopt a public option.

The blame lies with Sen. Max Baucus and the former Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman, among others.

We also have a president who was not willing to argue forcefully enough for the public option, as Obama is also a centrist Democrat elected to maintain the status quo while pretending to offer hope and change, just as another centrist Democrat, from a town called hope, allowed Wall Street to hijack his better angels.

That’s assuming they actually had better angels, Kevin.

5 Responses

  1. If this case reaches the Roberts court, Roberts will uphold the subsidies for all 50 states. If he has to use Kennedy and three “liberal” judges, that’s what he will do. He’ll do it for the same social class allegiance and affinity reasons that he upheld the Forced Mandate to begin with. ( Which I predicted ahead of time and sometimes enjoy reminding some people about, to their annoyance).

    • I dunno. Any time the Roberts court has an opportunity to generate a bit of judicial mischief to screw the democratic process, it tends to seize on it. No idea how that translates to a ruling or whether the cases will be turned down but here’s my fingerpost: the Roberts court will do nothing to interfere with exploitative profit mining by the wealthy and well connected.

      • Hmmm . . . well then . . . since upholding that lower court’s decision that subsidies only apply to states with their very own State Ochanges and NOT to states sharing the Federal Ochanges, and since striking down subsidies for states on the Federal Ochanges would interfere with the exploitative profit mining at the very heart and soul of Obamacare; your own theory would also tend to predict that the Roberts Court would uphold the subsidies for all 50 states.

        So with two different theories predicting that the Roberts Court will uphold subsidies for all 50 states, it seems pretty likely that the Roberts Court will do that very thing if it reaches the Roberts Court.

        • OTOH, it could see the individual mandate as more significant than the subsidy. That would certainly stay within the spirit of the ACA and not do anything to undermine the exploitative profit mining. You’re locked into a policy and must pay it whether you like it or not. The insurance companies are under no obligation to make it easier for you to afford it. This would be consistent with other stuff like student loan repayments. Sure, you graduated into a sucky economy and can only score a part time $10/hour job even though you have a $60,000 balance on your student loans. Not our problem if you can’t afford to eat and work. Pay up.
          See how that works? Would Roberts give a crap about your problem? No, the Roberts court’s job as far as we can tell is to not to interfere with the narcissistic uber capitalists’ recovery of their property. And I say this as a capitalist that would prefer to work for a big corporate lab. The system is out of control. It really can’t go on like this. Part of the problem as I see it in my present part time job is that the narcissistic uber capitalists are still living in 2008 and the rest of America is still going through a very painful contraction that looks like it might be permanent. They need to pull back the throttle on the greed but these are people with a personality disorder so I don’t expect they are going to do anything voluntarily.

  2. j The proof of a theory’s predictive value lies in the number of predictions it makes which come out correct. If this case reaches the Roberts court, we shall see what happens. If it never even gets there
    then my theory is moot in any event. If it gets there, I will be proven right or wrong.

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