TN Legislature to Vote on Preemptive Protection from More Obamacare


February 24, 2015 12:48PM

King vs. Burwell. The little known heavy weight fight of the Obama administration’s tenure. This is for all of the Obamacare marbles. On March 4th, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case to decide whether to overturn an IRS rule that makes federal subsidies available to those enrolled in Obamacare and live in states without a state exchange. Of course, this case also serves to expose what many of us have known to be true since before Nancy Pelosi said we needed to pass the bill to know what’s in it: that without massive federal subsidies, the highly touted healthcare reforms promised by the President’s unAffordable Care Act (ACA) are in fact, not affordable. Unfortunately for the President, the language in the ACA is quite clear. Federal subsidies are made available for plans purchased on exchanges “established by a state under Section 1311.” On Sept. 30th, 2014, a federal district court judge ruled that health insurance purchased through the federal exchange is not eligible for a subsidy under the ACA. This set the stage for the Supreme Court showdown in King vs. Burwell, which will determine whether 13 million Americans could lose their subsidies and likely be unable to afford a plan on the Obamacare exchange. However, and perhaps just as biting for the administration as the potential stripping of federal subsidies, a Supreme Court reversal of the IRS rule would also mean that Americans can no longer be penalized for not purchasing insurance in states that have refused to set up an exchange. Yet, the fact that millions could have their perceived safety nets ripped from underneath them would be a tragedy—not because the subsidies to non-exchange states were overturned (because they are illegal and should be, since the Supreme Court’s responsibility is to uphold the rule of law), but because the president promised affordable healthcare, and delivered higher taxes, higher deductibles, robust mandates, and broken promises. In short, the ACA has been an immoral action from the beginning because it was passed with knowingly false assurances that leaves some our nation’s most vulnerable out to dry. For more background on King vs. Burwell, see the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon’s latest analysis in Forbes. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a projected 343,415 Tennesseans will stand to lose their subsidies if the Supreme Court overturns the IRS rule that allows subsidies to flow to non-exchange states. Certainly, these individuals should never have been subjected to these risks—an unfortunate consequence of relying upon an unreliable federal government. However, as I noted, a Supreme Court decision against the IRS rule means that Tennesseans will no longer be subjected to federal fines for not having insurance. In an effort to preserve this immunity, the Tennessee legislature will be considering a bill today in Senate Commerce and Labor, sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey, that will prohibit Tennessee from establishing a state exchange should the federal subsidies be overturned. Passing this legislation would ensure that Tennesseans will not be fined for not having insurance, and is an important first step towards protecting Tennesseans from future detrimental exposure from the ACA. -Lindsay Boyd