On March 4th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of King v. Burwell. King v. Burwell threatens to unravel the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – because the plaintiffs argue that the health-care law does not authorize subsidies through federally run insurance marketplaces. Instead, they say, the law only allows such subsidies in the 14 states (and District of Columbia) which set up their own exchanges.
It was argued that because the law did not clearly state that premium subsidies would be provided to Americans living in a state that did not set up a health-insurance exchange, an Internal Revenue Service rule of extending the subsidies to all states was illegal.
Have some Republicans flip-flopped on the issue?
Advocates of the law have pointed to statements made by leading Republican lawmakers that have suggested that at one point they too assumed the subsidies would be made available to all Americans.
The Washington Post reports that GOP Senators John Cornyn, John Barrasso, and Orrin Hatch, along with Rep. Paul Ryan, are all previously on record making statements that appear grounded in the assumption that subsidies would be available to people who got health care on the federal exchanges, in addition to state ones.
The King lawsuit, of course, alleges that the ACA does not authorize subsidies to all those people, and now, Cornyn, Hatch, and Ryan have signed a brief siding with the challengers. Meanwhile, Barrasso is openly rooting for the Supreme Court to “bring down” the law.
Some of these statements have been previously aired. What’s new here is that these Senators and their spokespeople have now attempted to explain their shift in views. Most of their explanations, Kessler concludes, are pretty weak, and amount to an “unacknowledged flip-flop.”
The back-tracks earned these politicians an “upside-down Pinnochio” in the Washington Post, showing that they “flip-floped” on the issue.