Friday, January 2, 2015

Supreme Court: Handouts, Hand-ups, Words and Intent of Law

Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and heart to this vote.

Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

It is becoming apparent ObamaCare’s future lies in the hands of nine Supreme Court Justices. The Justices will hear King vs. Burwell on April 4 and will announced their verdict in June. If they vote Nay, they will deal a mortal blow to ObamaCare. If they vote Yea, ObamaCare will survive and perhaps even thrive.\
The stakes are high and growing higher:

• Eighty-seven percent of the 4 million now enrolling in health exchanges are receiving federal subsidies, and 3.4 million of those signing up are in federal rather than state exchanges. By the end of the current enrollment period, an estimated 9.1 million people will be in the exchanges, with about 6.9 million in federal compared to 2.2 million in state exchanges. If the court rules subsidies in federal exchanges are verboten, what will happen? Will subsidies cease immediately? Will the 7 million or so receiving subsidies have to pay them back immediately ? Will these 7 million suddenly be unable to afford health insurance? Will they have to live hand-to-mouth? Will the GOP by June have an alternative plan protecting those receiving federal subsidies? Is it an obligation of the federal government to give “hands-up” subsidies to the less fortunate among us?

• The other issue, of course, is the law’s exact text? Does the law mean what it says when it says only those getting subsidies must be in exchanges “established by the state”? Or, were these words just an unfortunate maladroit aberration coined by an unwitting Congressional staff writer, not reflecting the true “intent’ of the law’s architects? Did the IRS, acting under orders of the Obama administration, overstep its bounds and the bounds of the Constitution, in implementing the law?

Subsidies via federal health exchanges are one of three pillars holding the health law together. The other two are the individual mandate and the employer mandate. The three pillars are three legs of the ObamaCare . If one goes down, will the other two keep the law upright?

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