Research on Past Health Reform Efforts Yields a Slam-Dunk for King v. Burwell Plaintiffs

The stakes are awfully high in the SCOTUS King v. Burwell ruling, to be announced later this spring.

If the Supreme Court decides the administration illegally extended Obamacare subsidies to those enrolled through Healthcare.gov, many Americans will lose the financial aid they were promised and find health insurance coverage unaffordable.

[By the way, this begs a few questions: Why is the government mandating that Americans buy individual policies that are, on average, 49% more expensive than they were pre-Obamacare — after scheming to throw millions of Americans off their old policies? Aided by the over 500,000 health insurance agents in the country, aren’t we capable of finding insurance that meets our particular needs? Or are we just too stupid to know what’s good for us?]

On the other hand, a ruling for the plaintiffs would release 57 million Americans from mandates to which the law, as written, did not subject them. Employers in most states could relax about the law’s potentially huge blow to their financial health, countless Americans would no longer fret about dealing with IRS employees tasked to oversee their premium payments, and state economies could improve.

A most stunning and disappointing episode in U.S. politics is revealing itself, as Congressional Democrats are now forced to admit they didn’t read the fundamentally transformative bill for which they voted in 2009 and 2010. Pro-government amicus briefs assert that Congress never intended — or worse yet, understood — that premium subsidies were restricted to state-established exchanges, despite the law’s clear language.

It’s as if they’re saying, “Never mind what we voted for! What’s important is what we thought we were voting for!”

Would that work with your mortgage? Would a bank allow you to unilaterally change the terms of your home loan because you didn’t read — or understand — the contract you signed? That’s the federal government’s position here.

And are Congressional Democrats telling us the truth about their intentions in 2009 and 2010? Remember: these are the very same people who repeatedly assured us we could keep our plans and our doctors.

The administration maintains that it’s well within its bounds to rewrite Obamacare. It also says it would have been “perverse” for Congress to pressure states to cooperate with the sweeping law by holding premium subsidies over their heads.

Thanks to a great deal of health reform research, we know this kind of perversity has endured through over four decades of proposals, from Nixon, through Clinton, and through subsequent plans.

This Forbes analysis gives the details, but here’s the takeaway: Given the history of U.S. health reform efforts, it’s looking likely the King plaintiffs are correct in claiming Obamacare drafters aimed to punish refusenik states. In fact, after digesting this research, we may legitimately ask, why wouldn’t they?

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