How big a sham is the case seeking to gut Obamacare subsidies?

Signups for health insurance through the ACA exchange are going swimingly, with Maine hitting the 2015 target more than a month before open enrollment ends.

Now, with the Supreme Court to hear a case that could end subsidies to Maine people (since we have no state-based exchange), research shows how much of a sham is that case.

How much? It’s a complete and utter sham.

Evidence is provided by by Harvard professor Theda Skocpol. [See Skocpol’s write-up here.]

This evidence is unassailable because it is based on requests by congressional Republicans and Democrats to the body charged with preparing financial estimates.

These requests reveal those Republicans’ and Democrats’ assumptions about whether coverage depended on getting insurance just through a state exchange.

There were many requests to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for financial estimates. You can see the raw numbers below.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.37.54 AMAnd of those, how many requests assumed that exchanges might cover people in some states and not others?

None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Or, as Skocpol puts it:

The record shows that no one from either party asked CBO to analyze or project subsidies available to people in some states but not others. 

It’s very clear how weak is the argument that Congress only meant subsidies to go to state exchanges.

Furthermore, having followed the discussion in Maine about whether to set up a state exchange, I can say that no one raised the possibility that the state’s choice could mean that Maine people would lose out on subsidies.

Given the politicization of the Supreme Court, the case could still be decided wrongly, contrary to the evidence that no one in Congress contemplated that subsidies would only go to people in states with state-based exchange.

For the sake of the reputation of the Court and, more importantly, the health of those gaining coverage because of these subsidized policy, that would truly be a very bad decision.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.