Obamacare Back in the Spotlight

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Obamacare Back in the Spotlight
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This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on November 12, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

Top Story: Tod Ruger of Roll Call—a newspaper covering Capitol Hill with a media bias rating of “Center“—reports, the “Supreme Court appears poised to uphold most of Obamacare.” First some background: “The Trump administration and a coalition of Republican-led states asked the Supreme Court to strike down President Barack Obama’s signature law that expanded insurance coverage to more than 20 million people, including popular provisions such as required coverage of preexisting medical conditions. They argued Tuesday that Republicans used the 2017 tax overhaul to eliminate the law’s penalty for most Americans who don’t get health coverage. They say that made the mandate to buy insurance unconstitutional, and that mandate is so essential to the rest of the law that, in turn, it means the remainder of the 2,000-page law ‘must also fall.’ Ruger says: “If the three justices on the court’s liberal wing agreed with what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh indicated Tuesday, that would provide five votes for the health care law to survive again in its third major trip to the Supreme Court. A decision is expected before the end of the term at the end of June.” Here’s what both sides are saying about the latest development:

On the LeftHarmeet Kaur of CNN’s news team said: “It looks like most of Obamacare might remain intact after all. The Supreme Court appeared poised to reject the latest Republican-backed attempt to kill the landmark health reform law, based on the justices’ tone during oral arguments. Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously saved the ACA in 2012, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s place to invalidate the entire law. It’s the third time the court has heard a significant challenge to the law, and it seems like Roberts is so over it. If Trump and Republicans wanted to kill the law, they could have done it, he said. About 20 million people have gained coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and through the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults.” Amy Davidson Sorkin of the New Yorker adds: “Kavanaugh and Roberts appear to be reasonably firm on what the remedy would be: remove the [individual] mandate and let the rest stand. If that proves true, there would be five votes saying that the ways in which Obamacare protects the most vulnerable will survive, despite [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg’s death in October. [Amy Coney] Barrett will not have undone her work—at least, not yet.”

On the RightIn an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, writes: “The core of the ACA is a three-legged stool. The first leg is the individual mandate — buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. Importantly, the law itself, as reiterated by President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, deems the mandate essential to achieving the ACA’s central purposes. The second leg is known as the guaranteed issue — insurers must accept all applicants regardless of preexisting conditions. The third is the community rating — insurers cannot charge substantially different rates because of age, sex, or health status. Remove one leg, and the whole thing collapses.” This is why Paxton says, “Without [the individual mandate], a key piece of the ACA, the entire law must fall.” Paxton concludes, saying: “At best, the ACA is a deeply flawed, partisan disaster that has done tremendous damage to our country and healthcare system. The three principal components alone generated skyrocketing costs and crushing regulations. At worst, it is an unprecedented exercise of raw federal power that our founders would find unconscionable.”

Flag ThisThe Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) tracks public attitudes toward various aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare”. According to the KFF: “The most recent Tracking Poll conducted in October 2020 found over half of the public (55%) now holds a favorable opinion of the ACA while about four in ten (39%) hold a negative opinion of the law. In October 2020, a majority (58%) of the public said they do not want to see the Supreme Court overturn the 2010 health care law, and eight in ten (79%) said they do not want to see the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions overturned.” Lastly, “A KFF analysis estimates that 27% of adults ages 18-64 have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial of insurance in the individual market prior to the implementation of the ACA.” In Washington, former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday argued for expanding the Affordable Care Act, saying the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the urgent need to give more Americans access to health insurance. Conversely, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly called Obamacare “the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years.”