Klein: Halbig Won’t Destroy ACA
Ezra Klein argues the Halbig decision won’t gut the Affordable Care Act on Vox.
The Halbig case could destroy Obamacare. But it won’t. The Supreme Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar.
As Adrianna McIntyre explains, the Halbig case holds that Obamacare’s subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs (or partly runs) the exchange. The plaintiffs rely on an unclearly worded sentence in the law to argue that Congress never intended to provide subsidies in federally-run exchanges and so the subsidies that are currently being provided in those 36 states are illegal and need to stop immediately.
This is plainly ridiculous. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can’t afford it. The point of the federal exchanges is to make sure the law works even in states that can’t or won’t set up an exchange. For Congress to write a law that provides for federal exchanges but doesn’t permit money to flow through them would have been like Congress writing a transportation law that builds federal highways but doesn’t allow cars, bikes or buses to travel on them. That was…not what Congress thought it was doing.
As Sahil Kapur reports on Talking Points Memo, Senator Tom Harkin agrees.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the health committee and a chief author of Obamacare, tore into an appeals court ruling this week that forbid the federal exchange to provide subsidies to millions of Americans in 36 states.
“It’s nuts,” he told TPM in an interview in the Capitol on Thursday.
Harkin said he’s certain Congress intended to provide the premium tax credits on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, rather than simply the state exchange, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday. “Of course we did!” an impassioned Harkin said. “It’s plain to see. You can read our reports and everything else. … I was one of the people who wrote it! Of course we wanted it to be accessible to everyone, not just people on state exchanges.”
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center