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Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Featured, Health, Law, Politics | 4 comments

Burwell V. King Consequences

Josh Marshall weighs potential political consequences of the Burwell V. King Supreme Court ruling on Talking Points Memo.

There are many Democrats who believe that, in political terms, the joke will be on Republicans if the Supreme Court adopts the preposterous claim of the plaintiffs who say that Obamacare subsidies in states without state exchanges violate the law. This is because millions of middle- and lower middle-class people who had a benefit suddenly will have it taken away. I feel like I’ve been to this rodeo enough times to know Republicans have a really high capacity to stick with unpopular policies if doing otherwise would cut against key ideological priorities. In functional terms, the complaints of a few hundred thousand of what Sen. (Ron) Johnson (R-WI) and his interviewer called “sad sacks” who lose their insurance cuts a lot less than the base’s ideological commitment to opposing Obamacare by any means necessary. But the calculus may be different in some key states – states that did not set up exchanges but are generally blue or purple in presidential elections.


Here are the states without market places that seem to me in reasonable contention in 2016. As you’ll see, the list reads like a list of key swing states.


Florida (1,479,439)

Maine (66,616)

Missouri (222,559)

New Jersey (211,158)

North Carolina (512,975)

Ohio (196,714)

Pennsylvania (379,607)

Virginia (320,525)

Wisconsin (184,822)


In parantheses, I’ve listed the number of individuals in each state currently enrolled with an Obamacare policy and receiving a subsidy.


As I said, I don’t think Texas is going to lift a finger to set up an exchange if this happens even though it will affect more than a million Texans. But I think in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Florida and other states the calculus could be very different. It could also go beyond the presidential race. That’s why I suspect Johnson is speaking up. He’s up for election, likely against Russ Feingold. This is as likely to affect congressional elections as the presidential. As you can see, the numbers of people involved are really big, and this overlap applies to most of the key swing states. If the Court rejects the whole Burwell argument, none of it matters. But if it doesn’t, I don’t think you can make sense of the 2016 election without absorbing this map.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center