An Opportunity For More Clarity On Healthcare — And Better Policy

The Democrats were ready for defeat last Tuesday, no matter what their fundraising emails said. But they weren’t prepared for the wipeout they suffered not only in the Senate, but also on the state level.

Republicans took three statehouses on Tuesday and now hold 31 of 50 governorships. What’s more, they now control more than two thirds of state legislative chambers across the country. What does this mean? The GOP is in charge of the state government in 24 states while Democrats only control six.

President Obama didn’t take his defeat well – and with good reason. He heads into his last two years with dwindling popularity and an agenda that he has little hope of passing without relying on executive action, a method of governing that he has made clear he will employ readily if need be.

On top of the setbacks and trauma caused by the election defeat, President Obama was faced with another shock when on Friday the Supreme Court agreed to hear yet another challenge to Obamacare.

The challenge would affect 5 million low income Americans who buy insurance through the state exchanges and qualify for federal subsidies. The issue lies in whether the same subsidy is available to those who buy their insurance through the federal exchanges.

670px-us-deptofhhs-logo-svgThe administration sees the challenge as base partisanship and is adamant that the law provides for those who get their insurance through the federal exchanges, even if the language in the law is unclear (which it is).

“These lawsuits won’t stand in the way of the Affordable Care Act and the millions of Americans who can now afford health insurance because of it,” press secretary Josh Earnest said. “We are confident that the financial help afforded millions of Americans was the intent of the law, and it is working as Congress designed.”

Two appellate courts have considered challenges to the subsidies so far with one upholding the Obama administration’s interpretation and the other still deliberating.

The implications of this decision for Obamacare are very serious.

As the National Journal’s Sam Baker writes, “If the challenge succeeds, the consequences for Obamacare would be dramatic: Costs would skyrocket for millions of consumers, likely causing many of them to drop their coverage. The law’s central goal – expanding health insurance to low-income Americans – would be severely set back, and at least some of the law’s new insurance markets could become unsustainable.”