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December 18, 2018

Four Takeaways from Judge O'Connor's Obamacare Smackdown

 

Federal Judge Reed O’Connor has reopened the Obamacare wound, striking down the law in its entirety.
 
It will likely take months to go through the judicial process and, once again, land at the Supreme Court. What can we surmise so far?
 
1.  Nothing changes for those with Obamacare coverage. For the time being, nothing changes. The penalty for not having Obamacare-qualified coverage still goes away in 2019, eligible individuals who buy their own coverage through the exchanges will still receive their subsidies, and those states that expanded Medicaid may keep those changes.
 
But those facts won’t stop the media from hyperbolizing the impact of the judge’s decision.
 
2.  The media will finally care about millions losing their coverage. While the media did report the fact that Obamacare forced millions of Americans to lose their health insurance coverage—in direct contradiction to President Obama’s promise that if you liked your coverage you could keep it—they never decried those loses.
 
Don’t expect a repeat of that tepid concern. We will see story after breathless story of how millions of poor and sick people will lose their coverage and be left with nothing but unpayable medical bills and bankruptcy because of Republicans' opposition to Obamacare. 
 
3.  Republicans will mostly defend the smackdown, but secretly wish it would go away. Republicans’ failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare in 2017 and their electoral beating last November have changed the political and policy dynamics of health care reform.
 
The number one theme of Democratic campaign ads was health care and the pre-existing condition issue. Democrats claimed Republicans wanted to eliminate that “consumer protection,” leaving millions of sick Americans without any health care options.
 
Those ads had Republican candidates on the defensive, claiming that they really did support that pre-existing condition protection and several other Obamacare provisions to boot.
 
Since Republicans have never—either before or after Obamacare passed—developed a unified, easily explainable vision for how they would reform the health care system, the Democrats’ assertions stuck.
 
4.  Democrats will denounce the smackdown, but secretly welcome it. Democrats won’t say it, but they see Judge O’Connor’s decision as a gift for their efforts to take the Senate and the White House in 2020. They will pound the health care issue every time they can.
 
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly released a statement saying, “When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
 
Of course, Democrats don’t really want to save Obamacare, they want a government-run, single-payer system. But they are happy to use the Obamacare ruling as a political hammer to nail Republicans.


 

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