The Supreme Court will rule later this month on a technicality that could unravel Obamacare and cause 16 million Americans to lose insurance coverage.
If this happens, the outcome is not in doubt. The American Academy of Actuaries, the mathematics wonks who calculate insurance polices, predict “higher numbers of uninsured, higher premiums, and insurer insolvencies.”
What’s surprising is how many Republicans think this is a good thing.
“Let’s be clear: if the Supreme Court rules against the administration, Congress will not pass a so called ‘one-sentence’ fake fix,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
Barrasso adds that Republicans “are prepared to help the American people who have been hurt by President Obama’s unlawful actions and his failed law,” but there are no specifics and there’s a good chance nothing will happen.
One reason is that most Obamacare recipients are low-income, young and minority, and therefore certainly not likely to be Republicans, who are typically old, white and well-covered by Medicare (which they insist is “different.”)
On conservative talk radio, you can almost hear in the anti-Obamacare rhetoric an echo of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” refusing to contribute to end Irish starvation. “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Obama sought to build support for his signature legislative accomplishment earlier this week in a speech before the the Catholic Health Association. He listed the following successes:
- 16.4 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage
- 30 million young adults can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions
- 105 million American no longer face lifetime coverage caps
- 137 million Americans are guaranteed preventive care coverage
This comes at a cost, of course, what Barrasso calls Obama’s “decision to illegally issue tax penalties and subsidies on Americans in two-thirds of the country.”
That’s the heart of the issue. The Affordable Care Act requires every American to have health insurance coverage, or to pay a tax penalty if they don’t.
To many this is a slap in the face of our rugged, frontier individualism, but from a practical standpoint it means emergency rooms will no longer be packed with non-paying patients and families will no longer be bankrupted by relatives who don’t feel the need for health insurance.
Of course, we pay for other public services without sacrificing our individuality. Police and fire protection, municipal water supplies and no-fault auto insurance quickly come to mind. Perhaps they were once controversial.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will conclude that one ambiguous phrase in a 1,000-page law is not enough to make it unconstitutional. More than 16 million Americans are hoping so.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.