Obama’s Bold Remarks on Supreme Court Cases: Crossing the Line?

Wall Street Journal: “Among presidents in modern times, Barack Obama stands apart in the intensity of his remarks on Supreme Court cases, a soon-to-be published article in Presidential Studies Quarterly concluded.”

‘Mr. Obama added a new data point on Monday, saying at a news conference that ‘under well-established precedent, there is no reason’ the administration should lose a challenge to the Affordable Care Act pending before the court.’

‘On most occasions, presidents have only briefly noted the existence of a Supreme Court case. Mr. Obama, who taught law at the University of Chicago, has tended to go further, Mr. Collins and his co-author, University of North Texas professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, found.”

“While there have been about 50 instances between 1953 and 2012 when presidents have mentioned pending cases, Mr. Collins said most presidential commentary has concerned decisions after they are announced. There are good reasons for that, he said.”

“When presidents discuss pending litigation, ‘they are violating this very strong norm of judicial independence, that presidents and other political actors shouldn’t get involved’ when the court is deliberating, Mr. Collins said. ‘It’s not done.’”

Obamacare Is Now Woven into the Nation’s Social Fabric

N.Y. Times Editorial Board: “The Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of people get health care, is now fully woven into the nation’s social fabric. As President Obama said Tuesday, there is something ‘deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless, partisan attempts” to roll back the progress already made.'”

“There is an easy solution for the problem [if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare subsidies in King v. Burwell.] Congress could pass a one-sentence law clarifying that subsidies will be available on all the exchanges. That’s what polls show Americans want. But congressional Republicans are not about to do anything realistic to help millions of people keep their health coverage, and are bent on destroying the law that made coverage possible.”

“Experts who have looked closely at the options say converting would not be easy. While the administration would presumably try to make the transition as smooth as possible, the states that established their own exchanges in the past did so with hundreds of millions in federal grants that are no longer available and lots of technical help from the federal government. They also had time to get the job done.”

Republicans’ Twist on an Obamacare Solution

Greg Sargent asks, in light of recent comments by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “how can Republicans simultaneously argue that the American people must be ‘protected’ from the damage that undoing Obamacare will do — from the damage that will ensue from a Court decision unraveling subsidies that are crucial to the law’s basic functioning — without implicitly conceding that the right response is to reverse the immediate impact of the decision, and cleanly restore the subsidies?”

“Republicans will argue that the post-King chaos is the fault of the law itself, and not the fault of the Court decision (which Republicans urged on) that is knocking out a key pillar of it. In this telling, the cause of all the damage will be that Obamacare held out the false promise of economic security for millions, in the form of expanded coverage, but that security was then snatched out from under all those people (thanks to Obummer’s incompetence) when the Court clarified what the law actually says. All this is only the latest way in which Obamacare is hurting countless Americans.”

“That’s pretty damn slick. But it doesn’t answer the question of what Republicans will do in response.”

Obamacare Contingency Plans Are Few and Far Between

L.A. Times: “Millions of Americans could soon lose health insurance when the Supreme Court decides the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act this month, but states have made few concrete plans to deal with the potential fallout, and they may get little help from Washington, President Obama warned Monday.”

“Just two states whose residents are in jeopardy — Pennsylvania and Delaware — have outlined strategies for preserving subsidies, however.”


Obamacare in the crosshairs

“Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico have officially established their own marketplace, but use the federal HealthCare.gov website to allow consumers to purchase health plans. That approach could shield their residents, depending on how a court ruling is written.”

“But replicating that arrangement may require states to collect fees from insurance companies and to pay the federal government for using HealthCare.gov. Those steps will probably require approval from GOP-controlled legislatures in most states, a huge political barrier. The process would also take time.”

Republicans Face a Growing Predicament on Obamacare

Jonathan Chait argues that if the King v. Burwell lawsuit succeeds, “the Republicans in Congress will find themselves in the same position as when they shut down the government. They will be demanding policy concessions in return for doing something they agree has to happen. Holding out for concessions in those circumstances is very hard. The pressure inevitably grows for the House leadership to bring a Democratic bill to the floor and let it pass with a handful of Republican votes.”

“Alternatively, Congress could remain gridlocked, and leave it to each state to fix the problem by establishing its own exchange, assuming such a course is technically possible. But that would simply replicate at the state level the same dilemma Republicans can’t navigate at the national level: How can Republican elected officials navigate between a public that does not want to throw innocent people off the life-saving care they get through Obamacare, and an activist base demanding they do exactly that?”

States Look for Alternative Obamacare Rescue Plans

The Hill: “It may be easier than expected for states to save their ObamaCare subsidies, if the Supreme Court rules against the law this month.”

“Two states — Pennsylvania and Delaware — said this week they would launch their own exchanges, if needed, to keep millions of healthcare dollars flowing after the decision. Both want to use existing pieces of the federal health insurance exchange, like its website and call center — a path that would be far less costly than the way most other states have created their exchanges.”

“If those plans win approval, many of the other 36 states that stand to lose their subsidies could then pursue a similarly simple strategy.”

“But that would spell trouble for Republicans who view the King v. Burwell case as their best chance yet to dismantle President Obama’s healthcare law. GOP members of Congress have repeatedly said they must create a backup plan for states so that they are forced to make ObamaCare ‘fixes.’”

“While a state-based exchange is not defined in the Affordable Care Act, experts say the commonly understood definition has been blurred since the rollout of the law, as more states share technology.”

Public to SCOTUS: Don’t Demolish Obamacare

Washington Post: “The Affordable Care Act hangs in the balance in the Supreme Court for the second time in three years, but the public has rendered a judgment ahead of the court’s ruling. By a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent, more people say the court should not take action to block federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“Public opinion on providing subsidies splits in predictably partisan ways — but not overwhelmingly so. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (65 percent) say the court should not take action to block health insurance subsidies. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say the court should rule against the subsidies. Independents side with keeping subsidies, 57 percent to 36 percent.”

“The disconnect in the new poll — that a majority opposes the law, while a nearly equal majority does not want the Supreme Court to rule against it — is driven by political independents as well as Republicans. Independents oppose the law 56 percent to 35 percent. But they also want a ruling in favor of subsidies by almost exactly the same margin.”

Who Wins if SCOTUS Obamacare Case is Struck Down?

National Journal: “What if Obamacare’s conservative challengers lose King v. Burwell?

“If that question seems less sexy in a policy sense, that’s because it is. Essentially, if the Court decides the federal government is on the right side of the law, nothing happens; business continues as usual in all 50 states’ Obamacare exchanges. People keep their insurance as is. But politically, an Obama administration win would mean volumes.”

“The decision would validate the White House’s faith in the president’s signature domestic accomplishment. And it would give Democrats the platform to say some variation of ‘I told you so’ after standing their ground over the past couple of months, refusing to engage in conversations asking how they would fix Obamacare because, as they keep repeating, the Court isn’t going to break it.”

“For Republicans, aside from the disappointment of losing their second Supreme Court challenge against the Affordable Care Act in three years, they would lose perhaps their only true bargaining chip—the health insurance of some 10 million people—against the White House to make any substantive changes to Obamacare this year.”

Healthcare Premiums Could Skyrocket if Obamacare Challenge Succeeds

Washington Post: “About 6.4 million Americans would lose health insurance subsidies if the Supreme Court rules in favor of an Obamacare challenge later this month, but the potential effect of a ruling varies dramatically by state.”

“Costs would rise in each of the 34 states affected by a potential ruling, with the largest spikes in Mississippi, Utah and Alaska, where the cost of the average monthly premium would rise by more than 500 percent, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Arizona would see the smallest hike, of 132 percent.”

Republicans’ Obamacare Alternative: Just a Public Relations Stunt?

Jonathan Cohn argues that the Republicans aren’t serious about proposing a Republican alternative to Obamacare.

“The Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has said repeatedly that his party will have a contingency plan ready to go if the court sides with the law’s challengers. He’s also vowed, again and again, to craft an Obamacare alternative that will achieve better results at lower costs. It’s the same set of promises that countless other Republican leaders have made, although Ryan would seem uniquely positioned to deliver on them.”

“But take a look at the official agenda for the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday … Here’s what you won’t see: contingency plans for the upcoming Supreme Court ruling or alternative schemes for expanding insurance coverage.”

“The cynical explanation (offered most recently by Salon’s Simon Maloy) is that Republican leaders aren’t serious about crafting a plan — that all the vague promises of ‘off-ramps’ and ‘transitions’ away from Obamacare have been a public relations stunt, designed to make potential swing votes on the Supreme Court, particularly Chief Justice John Roberts, feel more comfortable about issuing a decision that could create so much chaos for the millions of Americans who can’t get health insurance without those federal tax credits.”

Most Not Paying Attention to Pivotal Obamacare Lawsuit

Drew Altman: “The Supreme Court’s King v. Burwell ruling will make headlines whenever it arrives. It will also be genuine news to much of the country. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Policy News Index, which tracks how closely the public follows health stories in the news, found that 59% of Americans have not been paying much or any attention to news stories about the case, and only 16% have been following very closely. That means that when the verdict comes the media’s first job will be to explain what the case was about.”

“The degree to which the news media have established the facts will help to umpire the blame game if Republicans in Congress condition an extension of subsidies in affected states on major changes to the law and the president vetoes such legislation and millions of Americans lose coverage. Much of the response to the ruling–like so much else about the Affordable Care Act–will follow partisan perspectives, with Republicans blaming the president and Democrats pointing fingers at congressional Republicans. News coverage could shape opinion in this instance because so many Americans have not been paying attention to the case.”

Which State Would Be Most Affected if SCOTUS Rules Against Obamacare?

Kaiser Family Foundation newsletter: “Using 2015 enrollment data released today, a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis and interactive map breaks out how residents in each of the 34 states without a state-based exchange would fare” if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the challengers in King v. Burwell.

“The analysis looks at the total number of residents in each state that would lose premium assistance, and the total dollars in subsidies that would be lost in each state, as well as the size of the lost subsidy for the average resident, and the resulting percentage increase in their premiums.”

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“The analysis finds that Florida would be most affected in terms of the number of people losing subsidies (1.3 million), and the total monthly value of those subsidies ($389 million), with Texas ranked second in both categories (832,000 residents losing a total of $206 million per month).”

“When looking at the impact per person, subsidized enrollees in Mississippi fare the worst, with the average enrollee facing an average premium increases of 650 percent if the Court rules for the challengers.”

There’s ‘No Easy Fix’ to an Adverse Obamacare Ruling

The Hill: “The Obama administration is casting doubt on Congress’s ability to pass an ObamaCare ‘fix’ if the Supreme Court decides later this month to gut the healthcare law’s subsidies.”

“With less than a month before the ruling, White House spokesman Josh Earnest is warning that Republicans will not be able to prevent the ‘significant turmoil’ that he said would result from a court ruling against the administration.”

Earnest: “There’s no easy fix to doing that, particularly when you consider how difficult it has been for common-sense pieces of legislation to move through the Congress.”

Meanwhile, “officials from states across the nation flew to Chicago in early May for a secret 24-hour meeting to discuss their options if the Supreme Court rules they have to operate their own exchanges in order for residents to get health-insurance subsidies,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Participants said it was extremely unlikely their state governors, legislatures and insurance commissioners would all agree to set up an exchange if the Supreme Court struck down their state subsidies, and that they could do so before the subsidies could vanish.”

“As a result, a few supporters of the law are eyeing fresh workaround options, that even they aren’t sure will work. One possibility is that an agreement, rather than a contract, could be drafted between a governor and the Obama administration to establish a state’s exchange. Others are looking into whether the Department of Health and Human Services could say states have established their own exchanges already by helping the federal government operate an exchange on a state’s behalf.”