400 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
- Local 202.783.3870
Congress is rapidly reaching a crossroads on ObamaCare. When the Supreme Court rules in a couple of weeks, there is a decent chance that the IRS’s insurance subsidies in 34 states will be officially ruled illegal and cease to operate. If that happens, politicians on both sides of the aisle are going to need to figure out what to do, because we will then be in a situation where ObamaCare is mandating that people buy insurance that they absolutely cannot afford.
So, what to do?
The first option is to do nothing. Although Congress is generally good at doing nothing, political pressure would make such a course of action all but suicidal. In any case, this would lead to states setting up their own insurance exchanges to recapture the subsidies, a path that is fraught with peril, as we have seen.
Option two is for Congress to simply open up the Affordable Care Act and insert new language to “fix” the offending passage. This would require minimal effort on the legislature’s part,a dn there will likely be substantial pressure from the administration for this course of action. It’s going to be a temptation that is hard to resist for many, but in fact it’s one of the worst choices Congress could make. Here’s why.
First, ObamaCare is terrible law that is destroying the American health care system. It cannot be “fixed” because it is fundamentally flawed in its assumption that mandates and government bureaucracy can manage an incredibly complex system covering over 300 million people. The section of the law under debate was not a drafting error, it was an intentional feature designed to coerce states into setting up their own health insurance exchanges. Any attempt to put a patch onto the law will merely prolong the pain ObamaCare is causing to millions of Americans.
A second reason for Congress not to do the easy thing is the precedent it would set for future administrations. The IRS “interpreted” the law in its implementation of subsidies directly contrary to its written text. If Congress responds to this lawlessness by codifying the interpretation into law, it sends a signal that regulatory agencies can do whatever they want, and that rather than hold them accountable for their misconduct, Congress will simply bail them out legislatively. It’s a classic case of perverse incentives, where Congress would basically give the green light to regulatory abuse for many years to come.
The King v. Burwell decision gives Republicans - who now control Congress, let it be remembered - an opportunity to finally do what they’ve been promising to do since 2010, repeal ObamaCare root and branch, and start working on reforms that will actually help people. It’s an opportunity that we must not allow them to squander.