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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Obamacare supporters are praying that the Supreme Court won’t chop down a main pillar of the Affordable Care Act — but not so fervently, one suspects, as the politicians who’ve been demanding the law’s demise. That’s because come the next election, Republicans will have to face the voters they’ve made angry over Obamacare — but who will be angrier should they lose it.

The justices are considering whether subsidies for people buying insurance through the federal health exchanges are legal. Without them, the exchanges would collapse as only sick people continue to buy insurance, causing premiums to skyrocket. About 8 million Americans — 6 million of whom are getting subsidies — would lose their coverage.

The added concern for Republicans is that these 8 million are concentrated in conservative states that refused to set up state exchanges, for which the subsidies are not in question. These are their voters.

Republican leaders have come up with replacements should the federal exchanges go down. Sadly, they are riddled with flaws hidden in vague language.

The rhetoric remains muscular, however. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), says his party has better solutions than to “force people to buy insurance they don’t need or don’t want.”

Problem is, many people don’t want insurance until they need it. Then it’s too late.

The Obamacare mandates require everyone to obtain a minimum standard of coverage. Every serious conservative plan for health reform has included a mandate forcing people to obtain coverage. The healthy subsidize the sickly. That’s how insurance works. What those who do the subsidizing get in return is the security of knowing that they, too, are covered when things go bad.

Three Republican senators—John Barrasso of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Orrin Hatch of Utah—propose offering temporary subsidies to those who lose their Obamacare subsidies. Guys, care to divulge what those subsidies would be and whether they’d be anywhere near what Obamacare offers? Or do you imagine that the need for subsidies will go away when good, affordable coverage becomes magically available?

Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska suggests a temporary COBRA-like plan where people could keep insurance bought under Obamacare for another 18 months. Temporary solutions have been a hallmark of modern Republican governing. They give cover to conservative ideology while shielding the public from the consequences of it.

In the House, Republican Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Fred Upton of Michigan, and John Kline of Minnesota propose letting states do away with the mandates — as well as Obamacare’s minimum standards for coverage. So it’s back to plans that can offer very little coverage — and very unpleasant surprises for the policyholders who suddenly need expensive medical attention.

Tough luck. They should have bought the coverage they didn’t think they needed.

The Ryan-Upton-Kline plan would also offer tax credits to buy private plans and make them refundable for low-income folk who don’t pay income taxes. Subsidies again, by a different name. Meanwhile, the public would be vulnerable again to insurance company trickery.

Back in the Senate, Hatch and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) have a plan that would offer tax subsidies to families earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level. Subsidies yet again. And what about Americans making more than that but whose families include sick people whom no private insurer would touch?

If the court rules against the federal exchange subsidies, Republicans will find themselves in a fine political mess. And Americans will be back in the dungeon of stress and anxiety over their ability to obtain health care. Or perhaps the justices come to everyone’s rescue and keep the subsidies. Let us pray, all of us.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Protesters in Minnesota call for smaller government and the repeal of the health care law enacted in March, 2010. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

  • dtgraham

    I don’t think I buy into this continuing narrative that voters will become so angry at losing their subsidies that the Republicans will suffer at the polls. Unlike King v Burwell, which may be hard to tie to the Republican party directly despite the conservative groups behind it, the refusal to expand Medicaid for example is directly due to Republican legislatures and Governors—and I don’t see it hurting them. That cost about 5.8 million Americans health care coverage. Many of those Americans can see people in the same financial situation who do have health insurance, in neighbouring states that accepted the expansion. Yet those red states don’t seem to be polling blue.

    Losing something is more dramatic than never receiving it, true, but the conservative media will spin the lost subsidies masterfully as just another unamerican, unconstitutional act by dictator Obama or something along those lines. The white lower middle income, working class culture of voting Republican in red states is strong enough to overcome this I suspect. Tragically, but I sense it is.

    • Dominick Vila

      …while the oil companies and “farmers” like Michele Bachmann collect their well deserved subsidies…

    • darkagesbegin

      You read my mind, and state my position pretty well. It is pretty evident that if there is some backlash from the “republican base” about an end to obamacare, the republicans will spin it to blame Obama and the democrats for the demise, and that will be the end of that. They will get all those angry voters to vote republican, and of course, will not offer any other plan but that of “stay healthy and die young, but only after we have sucked you dry…”

    • flyinjs

      DTG, maybe this is true for the red side. But I believe that this will inflame the Blue side and more votes will be forth coming.

      • dtgraham

        Could be. That’s a nice thought. Democratic leaning supporters who actually vote are low enough in numbers (especially in mid-terms) that this might inspire the ones who don’t usually vote, to get registered and finally show up on election day.

        If the subsidies are nullified for federal run exchanges, that might possibly give Republican supporters in the bluer states a pause and some second sober thought about who and what they’re supporting. I’m no seer but I sure wouldn’t count on that though.

        Should that occur, the good news would apply to Presidential and Senate races as the Congress is a lost cause electorally until sometime into the next decade.

    • flyinjs

      DTG, maybe this is true for the red side. But I believe that this will inflame the Blue side and more votes will be forth coming.

    • dpaano

      As I’ve said many times before….the Republicans use lies and scare tactics to win over their base…..they’ll find a way to lie their way out if the Supreme Court shuts this down… me….it’ll end up being blamed on President Obama and the GOP base will believe every word of it! They are like lemmings…..

  • Dominick Vila

    The Affordable Care Act, a concept conceived by The Heritage Foundation, one of the most conservative think tanks in the country, and beta tested in Massachusetts by none other than Mitt Romney, will only be acceptable to Republicans after President Obama leaves office, and it is renamed GOP-TP-CARE or Heritage-Care.

    • Joseph Kelsall

      Mitt Romney? And, there was I thinking he was good for nothing.

      • Allan Richardson

        Apparently he WAS at one time good for something, but that didn’t play with the TP fanatics, so he changed. NOW he’s good for nothing!

  • latebloomingrandma

    Oh yes, I love the Ryan plan to have poorer people buy insurance then “refund” them. How does one do this if one makes $1200 per month clear, and insurance costs $650 a month. Do they not pay rent and utilities or just not eat for that month?. How many months do they not eat or risk eviction before their “refund” kicks in? How much is this refund for $650 paid every month. I think my volunteer job is safe at the Free Medical clinic.

  • booker25

    Republicans act like only democrats use the ACA.

    • charleo1

      They also act like everybody loved everything about the health insurance companies before ACA. Or that the uninsured, and under insured cost taxpayers nothing when they couldn’t pay their bills. Republicans act like idiots, and their supporters wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • GraceAdams830

    Public health. It is in the enlightened self-interest of almost everybody to have their neighbors have health insurance. Same as it is in everyone’s enlightened self-interest to have trash and garbage picked up at taxpayer expense.

    • dtgraham

      You got that right Grace. Health care is not only a human right (the main thing) but it’s also in the nation’s best interest to have everyone insured regardless of income level. That’s our opinion but we have a lot of support here.

  • CrankyToo

    The Repugnicans, at the behest of ALEC, have devoted a great deal of time and effort to disenfranchising those who tend to vote Democrat. Now, if the cons on the Supreme Court gut the ACA, the Greedy Old Pricks are going to have to figure out how to keep their own voters away from the polls.

  • CrankyToo

    The Repugnicans, at the behest of ALEC, have devoted a great deal of time and effort to disenfranchising those who tend to vote Democrat. Now, if the cons on the Supreme Court gut the ACA, the Greedy Old Pricks are going to have to figure out how to keep their own voters away from the polls.

  • Plutark Heavensbee

    In this related video we find a brief overview of the serious identity theft risks associated with the Obamacare website: