July 15, 2019

Obamacare in Jeopardy

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Last Tuesday, a federal appeals court heard arguments “in a 2018 lawsuit [against the ACA, also known as Obamacare] by 18 Republican-leaning states claiming that the absence of a tax converts the law into an unconstitutional directive to U.S. citizens to buy a product. A lower court judge ruled in December that it did, and that the entire law must fall as a result… [the judges] seemed inclined Tuesday to rule that the core provision of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is unconstitutional… It was less clear after the arguments whether the judges also would invalidate the entire health care law.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes the lawsuit to be without merit and thinks the ACA should remain in place, but is divided on future healthcare policies.

“Obamacare, the [challengers’] argument goes, is an intricately designed system. Lawmakers at the time of its passage believed that the law’s individual-mandate payment, a charge on those who went without health-care coverage, was a key piece of that system, compelling enough healthy people to buy into the insurance pool to keep its finances stable. Republicans zeroed out the payment in their 2017 tax-cut law, which, the challengers argue for complex but unpersuasive reasons, rendered the mandate unconstitutional. And, without the mandate, the system cannot work as its drafters anticipated, so the whole law must go…

“Yet Congress made a different call when it zeroed out the mandate payment in 2017… For the 5th Circuit to rule that Obamacare could not function as designed without the mandate — despite the fact that congressional intentions, as of 2017, were to have it function without the mandate — would require the appellate judges to replace their policy judgment for that of the policymakers in Congress, in effect to usurp the legislative function.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“It’s clear that the Trump administration and some supposedly conservative judges are doing exactly what they so often accuse liberal judges of doing: Pretending that they are legislators.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

“It’s not just that 21 million people would probably lose health insurance, or that 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions would lose their protection… health plans could also begin limiting the total amount of financial protection they offer customers, increasing deductibles, charging higher prices to older customers, and dropping expensive categories of benefits, like prescription drugs.”
Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times

Many argue that “despite relentless Republican attacks, the benefits provided [by the ACA] -- guaranteed insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions -- are now seen by many as a benefit to which they're entitled. Moving to Medicare for those who want it is a logical next step toward a single-payer option, one that maintains choice for millions of Americans… 56% of Americans say they support full Medicare for All… [but] when voters are presented with the full details of the Sanders and Warren plans, support falls dramatically… I believe it's critical for Democrats to maintain their advantage on health care going into 2020, and the best way to do that is to reject Medicare for All and embrace Medicare for those who want it.”
Joe Lockhart, CNN

Others counter that “those who lean to the left are repeatedly castigated for embracing Medicare-for-all minus a detailed and specific outline for how it will be paid for, while Republicans are rarely challenged on how repealing the ACA will weaken the entire American health-care system as we know it. At the same time, many believe the Republicans are fighting the ACA as a show for their rabid base, and aren’t serious about taking it out. As a result, all too many can’t bring themselves to accept that Republicans might be for real, that they want to destroy the ACA, and they don’t much care about what happens [to] individual Americans or the entire health-care system…

It would be one of the great ironies of all time if it were Donald Trump and the Republican Party who all but forced people to turn to the ‘socialist’ Medicare system to save health care. But it’s an irony that’s increasingly not outside the realm of possibility.”
Helaine Olen, Washington Post

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is skeptical of the lawsuit and critical of the alternatives being offered by the Democratic candidates.

From the Right

The right is skeptical of the lawsuit and critical of the alternatives being offered by the Democratic candidates.

“Whereas many prominent legal thinkers on the Right expressed support for the [previous lawsuits challenging Obamacare], there is a dearth of prominent voices in support of the plaintiffs' theory here. I don't think that's an accident. [The previous cases] were grounded in foundational aspects of conservative legal jurisprudence (the notion of limited federal power and textualist statutory interpretation, respectively). [This one], on the other hand, is a too-clever attempt at legal jujitsu that requires discarding traditional conservative approaches to standing, statutory interpretation and severability.”
Jonathan Adler, Volokh Conspiracy

Moreover, “the GOP has failed to sell their plan on health care to voters in a way that would prevent them from being blown up at the ballot box. It’s never easy campaigning on a platform that is viewed as taking away people’s stuff… while symbolically this could be a win, the GOP has failed to plan for the fallout [from] something like this.”
Matt Vespa, Townhall

“If the Affordable Care Act were to lose in court, and Congress and the president failed to agree on legislation afterward, Americans would go through the largest disruption in health-care arrangements that Washington has ever imposed… In turn, that would create a political problem for Republicans. They have long said they wish to repeal Obamacare while making sure that its beneficiaries, especially those with pre-existing conditions, have access to affordable coverage. If a lawsuit they launched succeeds in delivering the first half of that agenda, voters will expect them to deliver the second…

“[In order to do so] either the Republicans would have to compromise with the Democrats in the end, or they would accept inaction and blame it on the Democrats for not going along with their conservative ideas. The Democrats’ case – ‘We are ready to pass a simple extension of the law and protect everyone’ -- would likely go over better with voters. Republican senators up for re-election in swing states might find the pressure to side with the Democrats irresistible.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg

Many, however, point out that “if [Obamacare is struck down], President Trump has made clear time and again that he wants Congress to pass a replacement law that maintains guaranteed coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions… President Trump would be waiting with pen in hand if Congress were to send him such a bill. The truth is, he had that pen in hand in 2017 when the House passed that very bill, but one down-turned thumb by a GOP Senator killed [it].”
Mike Huckabee, Fox News

Regarding alternatives, some caution that “a public option would put the country on an inexorable course to single payer. For starters, the public option wouldn't need to cover its costs. It can't go bankrupt—it's backed by the federal treasury. Second, supporters of the public option envision paying doctors and hospitals at rates similar to those paid by Medicare, which are, of course, much lower than those for private insurers…

“The consequences would be predictable. Large numbers of people would sign up for the low-cost government plan. Doctors and hospitals, forced to treat more people at below-market rates, would raise their prices for the privately insured. These insurers would pass those higher prices along to their customers in the form of higher premiums. The cycle would repeat, until everyone had fled their old private insurers for the low-cost government-run plan. At that point, the public option would be the only option.”
Sally Pipes, Forbes

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Finland hosts heavy metal knitting championship.
AP News

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