On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about whether the Obama administration used the IRS to deliver health insurance subsidies to Americans in violation of the law. Millions of Americans may lose these subsidies if the court finds that the administration acted illegally. If that occurs, Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions.
When the court rules in King v. Burwell, we anticipate it will hold the administration to the laws Congress passed, rather than the laws the administration wishes Congress had passed, and prohibit subsidies in states that opted not to set up their own exchanges, as the language in the law clearly states. Such a ruling could cause 6 million Americans to lose a subsidy they counted on, and for many the resulting insurance premiums would be unaffordable.
Republicans have a plan to create a bridge away from Obamacare.
First and most important: We would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period. It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage, particularly in the middle of the year.
Most of these people have gone through the wringer to get this insurance. Millions lost their previous health-care plans because those plans didn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements; others no longer have access to the doctors or hospitals they were accustomed to; millions spent weeks trying to purchase insurance on the flawed website rolled out by the administration; and many have seen their out-of-pocket health costs or premiums skyrocket.
People do not deserve further disruption from this law.
Second, we will give states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices. Republicans understand that what works in Utah is different from what works in Tennessee or Wyoming. We want to give states the time and flexibility to design health-care systems that work for them, not for the bureaucrats in Washington.
People who live in states that have state exchanges will continue to be subject to Obamacare’s costly mandates and rules, along with the subsidies. But their states could also have the benefit of our solution. Every state would have the ability to create better markets suited to the needs of their residents.
We have had many discussions with our Senate and House Republican colleagues, and there is a great deal of consensus on how to proceed. Many of our colleagues have good ideas, and we look forward to working together.
We all agree Obamacare is a mess. But Wednesday, Obamacare will not be the key issue before the court. The key issue is whether the administration can unilaterally rewrite laws passed by Congress to meet its political objectives. We hope the court will protect the delicate balance of powers between the three branches of government.
Such a ruling would also give Congress an opportunity – to stop Obamacare’s damage and create a pathway to reforms that move our health-care system in the direction of freedom, choice and lower costs.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, also contributed.