As one ultra-conservative Texas judge’s “absolutely insane” decision declaring the whole of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, to be unconstitutional begins its journey through the upper courts, Vox provides an explainer as to why House Democrats aren’t using their post-election control of that body to legislatively intercept the ruling.
The short version: The judge’s ruling is still seen as so ridiculous on its face as to make it unlikely for even the Fifth Circuit, much less the Supreme Court, to sustain it, and “high-ranking Democrats” don’t want to give the plaintiff’s (and judge’s) arguments even the small boost of responding with a legislative “fix” to a problem that nearly all legal observers say never existed in the first place.
“Any proposed fixes will likely be partial, would open up the ACA to further amendment in the Senate, and would lend weight to plaintiff legislative history arguments,” says Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University. “This case is winnable in the courts and should stay there.”
That doesn’t mean House Democrats aren’t launching new efforts to protect Obamacare after years of Republican attempts to gut the law. Two bills working through committee will reverse the Trump administration’s weakening of Obamacare regulations and Team Trump’s vast expansion of “short-term” insurance plans that are not obliged to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s strict mandates for comprehensive coverage and pre-existing condition protections at all. Another bill seeks to restore Obamacare’s enrollment and outreach budget, slashed by the Trump crew in an attempt to weaken enrollment numbers. The overall goal is to take those parts of Obamacare that Trump’s collection of far-right saboteurs have been able to pick away at via regulation and formalize them into new law—at the least, obliging Senate Republicans to defend each unpopular act of sabotage themselves.
In the end, however, this is going to come to a head. We can already see the beginnings of it in the Democratic primary debates over Medicare for all-styled plans to move the United States more toward the single-payer, government-backed insurance plans of other industrialized nations. Conservative attempts to weaken Obamacare by sabotaging enrollment, coverage, and mandates have provided a case for a broader, less jury-rigged solution.
If the insurance companies and their lobbyists are still so obsessively insistent on reclaiming the right to sell sketchy coverage and boot Americans whose coverage needs are deemed insufficiently profitable, it may be far simpler to remove them from the equation and provide the needed coverage ourselves, as taxpayers.
The irony here is that the most breathless conservative complaints during the crafting and passage of the Affordable Care Act were from those who saw the coverage and pre-existing condition mandates to be “a step towards” a single-payer system. It turns out they were right, accidentally; years of systemic attempts at sabotaging the parts of Obamacare the public likes best may do more to convince the American public of the need for more rigorous, less fragile protections than single-payer proponents have been able to make the case for themselves.