The Agitator #126: No Plan B
by Oliver_Halle
 The Agitator
July 24, 2014 12:00 PM | 2209 views | 7 7 comments | 83 83 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This week, just hours apart, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a key provision in the Affordable Care Act.  The language stated that federal subsidies were only available to insureds in states that had set up their own insurance exchanges.  In a precise reading of the statute the subsidies would not apply in states with no state exchanges and where the federal government filled in to provide the exchange.

The congressional drafters of the legislation wrote their obvious intent imprecisely, and the D.C. Court of Appeals held their feet to the fire and interpreted the language exactly as it read, i.e. to exclude subsidies where a state did not set up an insurance exchange.  The Fourth Circuit, in reviewing the congressional record, interpreted their intent by reviewing the entire ACA law, and held that the provision was also applicable to the federal exchange.  Both ways of analyzing the statutory language are legitimate, but the high court could be the ultimate decider of which will prevail.  Unless the D.C. Circuit overturns their decision on review, the likelihood is that the issue will go before the Supreme Court.

Conservatives rejoiced when the D.C. Court’s decision was announced a few hours before the Fourth Circuit’s.  To them it was another nail in the ACA coffin.  They want to kill Obamacare so badly they can taste it.  Yet in the recent primary election and runoff, most of those who ran on the promise of repealing the ACA didn’t do too well at the polls. It’s one thing to continually tear down someone else’s ideas, but it’s another when you have none of your own.

As most readers know, the ACA, under different names, was supported by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, the conservative Heritage Foundation, and other conservatives and groups.  As evidence that it’s really about Obama more than the law, consider that the Republican House has yet to come up with one meaningful healthcare proposal of its own.  Sure, Congressman Tom Price touts his plan that would supersede the ACA and “work so much better”, but it’s fair to ask why it hasn’t even gotten a committee hearing.  The Republicans had six years under George W. Bush where they also had both houses of congress, and yet the only healthcare reform the American people got was the unwanted Medicare Part D, which is more costly to the taxpayers than the ACA according to the nonpartisan Government Accounting Office.  I think it’s fair to ask why they didn’t address the health insurance problem when they had a chance.  Same for tax and immigration reform.  We got nothing.

It’s too early to know how the latest court rulings will turn out.  But if the high court ultimately upholds the D.C. Court’s interpretation, the ACA could be substantially weakened, especially if the Republican House refuses to pass a revised provision that clarifies the original intent of the then Democratic congress.  That would mean a lot of people would no longer be able to afford to purchase insurance.  And that in turn would result in a proliferation of ER visits by indigents, something the ACA (and RomneyCare) was intended to get under control.  That begs the question: Do the Republicans have a Plan B for those who could lose their insurance?

The ACA includes specific wellness provisions.  This is a good thing, and healthy workers add to the productivity of our economy, which in turns increases the GDP.  Sick people are a drain.  It makes sense for people to have health insurance, work, and pay taxes that reduce the amount of the health insurance subsidies.  To go back to where we were before the ACA, where insurers could rescind policies for a variety of reasons, deny medical procedures and drugs because they were costly, not because a doctor said they were needed, would be a big mistake.  The focus should be on tinkering with the ACA to make it better each and every day, not to tear it down and rejoice when a court strikes a key provision.  I’ve always liked the man in the arena better than the critic who has no sweat equity in the fight.  Right now our representatives act more like spectators than the players we elected them to be.

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July 27, 2014
Hi Mr. Halle,

I must say; I'm taken aback. You actually addressed some of my points head on. And you were polite. I'm not accustomed to that.

Me? I'm just a working stiff. If remarks from an anonymous commenter have little or no credibility, then ignore them (me).

Anyhoo, you're exactly correct. Voters put the Democrats in the majority and they passed their bill. And they got a "shellackin'" in 2010. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree that a party line vote is either no big deal or something of concern.

Your columns on MDJ suggest that you're a pretty good armchair historian. Has a party line vote EVER occurred for a major piece of legislation?

Republican healthcare ideas? I guess the easiest way to address this is to point to a Forbes piece: "Seriously? The Republicans Have No Health Plan?, dated 08/28/13, by Chris Conover.

Finally, I am totally gobsmacked that you're defending Pelosi and the idea that it is ok to pass a major bill, that impacted one sixth of the U.S. economy, and no one has any idea what the hell is in the bill. You're a reasonable guy; but the manner in which this bill was passed was utterly indefensible.

To this end, I'll point to the Real Clear Politics poll: Public Approval of Healthcare Law. It is currently plus 15.4 Against/Oppose. Since inception of this poll (11/27/09), it has always been "under water."
EM Buckner
July 27, 2014
Ben Twomley,

"Truth is truth, no matter the source"--true enough. But judging whether a comment is fully true, true only in part, or false is often helped a great deal by knowing the source, the context, etc. There are innumerable examples, but if you reflect on it even briefly, probably you won't need these.
Ben Twomey
July 26, 2014
As usual Oliver, you make a lot of good points. You lose a lot of credibility when you blame the GOP for the failure of the ACA.

The GOP has passed several health care bills, but to no avail. They can't get off Harry Reid's desk.

The ACA will go down in history as the most convoluted and illegally revised piece of legislation in our history.

I cannot begin to conceive that you are trying to blame Pelosi's famous "pass it to see what is in it" remark on the GOP and use the "we needed to pass something" to try and excuse it.

Since you are quick to point out how government works, please remember that there is a reason we have two houses in the legislature. If everybody agreed all the time we would not need but one. BTW, that is also the reason there are two political factions. Some of us do not believe that

a bad law is better than no law.

And please refrain from using the Kevin Foley ploy of attempting to discredit something because the writer did not use his name. Foley continualy does that, yet his biggest supporter steadfastly refused to give his name.

Truth is truth, no matter the source,
EM Buckner
July 25, 2014
Oliver Halle, you're just whistling past the graveyard--or maybe the right expression is the one related to pissing in the wind [Mr. Editor--if "pissing" is unacceptable, would you censor the KJV Bible, in, say, Isaiah 36:12?], if you think Cobb County Guy is going to identify himself (herself?). I do think that he has a strong bias, but the chances any of us will ever get to test that conclusion of mine are nil. There may be good reasons for someone to fail to identify themselves when making comment's such as CCG made--but I cannot think of any offhand.
Oliver G. Halle
July 25, 2014
Cobb County Guy,

You write well, but you undermine your credibility by not identifying yourself. Are you the chairman, past chairman, officer, etc. in the Cobb Republican Party? That would make a difference in assessing your opinions for objectivity.

FYI, I voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan twice, Bush I once, Bush II the first time. I have a long history with the Republican Party, but it is not the same party that I grew up with and supported for a lot of years.

To address a couple of your points, in my opinion it doesn't matter if only one party supported the ACA. The Democrats were in the majority, and it was the American voter who put them there. That's how our system of government works. Sure, it would have been better if the Republicans participated in the debate, but they refused. Why they refused considering that so many of the ideas in the ACA were originated with Republicans is probably not the mystery some might think. You didn't address my point that the Republicans had six years to devise their own healthcare plan and didn't. You also didn't address why the current House won't give Tom Price's proposed legislation so much as a committee hearing? Doesn't sound to me like they are remotely interested in coming up with a plan. Much easier to destroy the other guy's.

Do you think that the Republican House would be willing to work with Democrats to fix the language in the ACA?

As for Pelosi's comment, that is a favorite Republican canard. Yes, she said it, but the rest of the story, i.e. context, is that the Senate hadn't passed their own healthcare bill yet, and until they did, the House bill was stalled. The Senate needed to pass something so that the reconciliation committee could get down to do the detail work.

You are quick to point out Obama statements or others in his administration that don't square with your world view. That's a fair debate. Tell your readers, though, if there is additional context that we should know about concerning Dick Chaney's statement that deficits don't matter. The Bush administration certainly proved that. But again, please give context to that one, and then we can pick others.

In all fairness, you owe it to your readers to identify yourself. Let your readers decide if you are promoting a one-sided agenda, or if you really are an unbiased blogger who after much reading forms opinions that honestly line up with the Republican philosophy.

July 25, 2014
Obama and the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Obama held himself up as a "uniter." He told us, paraphrased, there are no red states, no blue states, there is only the United States.

Valerie Jarrett proclaimed that they'll be ready to "rule" from day one. Yes, "rule." Does that term not give you pause?

Early after the inauguration, Obama told the Republicans that elections have consequences and "I won." Obama obviously has never read Dale Carnegie.

Then, they held the big Health Care Summit ostensibly to solicit Republican input. It was an ambush.

Then, by way of legislative tricks, dirty back-room deals and arm twisting, the ACA was crammed down the throats of its citizens on a straight party line vote. All 2,400 pages.

Call it RomneyCare or tell us it originated at the Heritage Foundation. Fine. The bottom line is that the final product was passed without ONE Republican vote.

And, no one had read it. No one.

That's ok. As that giant of Congress, stateswoman extraordinaire, Nancy Pelosi, advised, "...we have to pass the bill so that you can, uh, find out what's in it..."

Then, one would have thought that the 2010 midterm "shellacking" would have sent the Democrats a message. But no.

Then, the tsunami of regulations, and they're still coming.

Then, before anyone can begin to digest said regulations, there are the special exemptions, the delays, the waivers, the special favors.

Then, the lies. You can keep your doctor. You can keep your health plan.

It has become a completely incomprehensible, bureaucratic monstrosity held together with duct tape and bailing wire.

Of course the Republicans have fought it tooth and nail every step of the way. How can anyone have expected anything else? Party line vote will do that and the Democrats would be doing the same thing if the tables were turned.

If, instead, the Democrats had negotiated with the Republicans, allowed some Republican ideas into the legislation, then everything would have been hunky-dory.

If, instead, the legislation had been bipartisan, then Republicans would have had no choice but to sit down with Democrats and FIXED problems as they arose.

So, with all due respect to you and other ACA supporters, Mr. Halle, the Democrats brought this on themselves.

Am I wrong?

EM Buckner
July 24, 2014
Oliver G. Halle can write and think better than many national columnists. Why in the world is the MDJ waiting around--quick, before a bigger market daily snatches him up, add him to your regular in-the-newspaper regulars. I'm OGH's friend, but I don't just say this as his friend--I say it as someone who wants the MDJ to thrive. Please, Mr. Brumby, don't miss this opportunity.
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