Patients and politicos are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s imminent decision about Obamacare in the case of King v. Burwell. The high court is expected to decide if taxpayer funding can be used to fund insurance subsidies in over 30 states where the federal government set up the exchanges. If the subsidies are found to be illegal, over 7 million people may lose or have their health insurance coverage negatively impacted. If that happens, the sky won’t fall.
And Congress should do nothing.
For years, Republicans have explained that Obamacare is unworkable, contrary to the notion of patient-centered health care, and a massive distortion of the free market, consumer choice, and the Constitution. They were mocked by Democrats. President Obama was the smartest man in the land, Democrats exclaimed, and would make nationalized health care work.
He was an “amazing law student,” who had once explained in 2008, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means, unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution.” Americans were repeatedly promised by President Obama that “[i]f you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” one of the biggest lies in the history of American politics. When Obamacare was debated and signed into law, then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then Majority Leader Harry Reid extolled the virtues of Obamacare’s collectivist health care scheme, and assured its success.
It turns out the Democrats were the gang that couldn’t legislate or write straight. Many states refused to set up health care exchanges. When that happened, the federal government intervened to set up the exchanges. However, Obamacare states that health care subsidies are only available to states that set up exchanges.
Opponents of Obamacare claim that language is clear and subsidies in states where the federal government set up exchanges should not be made available. Supporters of Obamacare claim that the language at issue is a misunderstanding, and it was not the intent of the law to prohibit subsidies in states where the federal government set up subsidies.
It is possible that the Supreme Court will rule that the subsidies must end in states where the federal government has set up exchanges. Republicans have been working out various options that they could pursue if the subsidies end. Those options amount to bridges and patches to address the millions who would be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision to end subsidies.
Congress should pursue none of them.
The federal government has no role in health care. The much-ignored Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reserves that to the states. Establishment Republicans should refrain from their usual pattern of rescuing the left’s social and economic dreams when they collide with reality. From “saving” Medicare, maintaining Head Start, and cementing the liberal’s dream of control over education with No Child Left Behind, Republicans in Congress have failed to achieve any meaningful elimination or substantive reform of the New Deal or Great Society. Even when Republicans control the White House and Congress they maintain the status quo with cosmetic tweaks.
The Republican controlled House and Senate will not act boldly if the Supreme Court decides correctly and rapidly return health care to the states. They will legislate a version of national health care that is a bit more transparent, a bit more market oriented, and a bit more responsible to patients. They shouldn’t.
Republicans shouldn’t disrupt Obamacare’s collapse if the Supreme Court decides the subsidies are unworkable. The blame for this lies squarely with our scholar-leader President Obama and the Democrats. Republicans should not rescue them from their mistakes. Republicans have pointed out for years that Obamacare is unworkable. If the Supreme Court helps prove them correct, Republican leadership in the House should take advantage of the decision to pivot health care back to the states as rapidly as possible and get the federal government out of the health care business at which it has failed so badly.
Republicans in the House and Senate should resist the temptation to provide mouth-to-mouth to the bureaucracy the left has constructed. They have done so too often in the past. Instead, Republicans should help take the Constitution off life support and revive the Tenth Amendment.
Neil Siefring is president of Hilltop Advocacy, LLC, and a former Republican House staffer. Follow him on Twitter @NeilSiefring