You’d think the Republican trouncing at the polls last week would be enough to still be dominating the news, but you’d be wrong.
(Of course, you could argue the Democrats simply didn’t bother showing up — much like their supporters at the polls.)
But the Supreme Court — like a needy middle child — clamored for its share of attention by agreeing to add the King v. Burwell case to its docket late last week.
This is the case that threatens to rip the subsidy rug out from millions of Americans who’ve bought health insurance through the 36 states where the feds are running the exchanges. To the Republicans’ point, a literal (read: strict constructionist) reading of the law certainly limits the eligibility of subsidies to those shopping on the state exchanges. But anyone with a modicum of common sense realizes what the legislators actually meant when they passed the law. In fact, there are several other provisions that back up that implication.
(In another Democratic misstep that’s only just now biting them in the ass, they wrongly assumed every state would jump at the chance to run their own exchanges.)
Never mind that the governors in those 36 states, by refusing to set up those exchanges, put those health care shoppers in peril with their willful inaction. So now, those governors can (technically) cry foul because they didn’t do their jobs. So even though they’ll ultimately be responsible for single-handedly making health care unaffordable (again), they can point their fingers at the administration for signing a fatally flawed bill into law.
Those salivating over this case either don’t realize this is a no-win situation, or simply don’t care. If the court outlaws these subsidies, we’ll be right back where we started — if not worse. Public sentiment will turn on the freshly empowered Republicans, who’ve yet to put forth a unified, workable alternative so many have been begging for — myself included.
(Whatever your interpretation of the midterm results, voters want someone to lead. That’s why they’ve handed Republicans both houses of Congress and an overwhelming majority of statehouses. The GOP has a chance to do more than say no. It would be tragic for them not to step up and do so.)
And if the court rules against King, we’ll still be stuck with a law that’s ringing up a health insurance bill that’s increasingly unaffordable. (This is the part where I point out that Medicaid — and its subsequent expansion — is meant to be a lifeline, a safety net. Not a way of life.)
Of course, with open enrollment looming this week, the administration’s back in the news, as well. Just days before Nov. 15, HHS released a much lower enrollment estimate than the Congressional Budget Office figure of 13 million. In fact, HHS expects only 9 to 9.9 million people to sign up for plans this year, including renewals. It’s a classic “lower expectation so you can meet them” strategy. And while we can (rightfully) criticize HHS for cooking the books before the game even started, few will remember it four months from now.
Voters’ memories are painfully short, if not terminally myopic, which is exactly what the administration is counting on.