This morning, I took a look at how the policy and politics might play out in Arkansas if the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the challenge to Obamacare pushed by conservative activists that could strip low-to-middle income people of their healthcare subsidies.
Legislators would face political pressure to help the tens of thousands of Arkansans who would suddenly face a choice between losing their health insurance or thousands of dollars in additional costs. But they would also face pressure from the Tea Party base. The 34 states potentially impacted by King will likely have a relatively simply fix: transitioning to a state-run marketplace will restore subsidies. Of course, that’s restoring Obamacare subsidies. Cue the right-wing advocacy groups, who will likely mount a well-funded campaign to persuade Republican lawmakers that saving the subsidies amounts to surrender to the hated health care law.
The New York Times reports:
Should the subsidies be blocked, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity would pressure Republican governors and legislators not to create exchanges. In some states, including Florida and Tennessee, these groups have been effective in persuading state lawmakers to oppose expanding Medicaid under the health care law.
“Many of these legislators come from deep-red districts and worry a lot more about a primary challenge than they do about getting challenged from the left,” Mr. Bagley said.
Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, said the group would “be involved one way or another.”
AFP Arkansas initially fought unsuccessfully against the state’s private option version of Medicaid expansion, but sat out the re-authorization fight. A battle over restoring subsidies would give the group another chance to test their muscle on wobbly Republican legislators.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post last week got ahold of a 25-question survey that Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce sent out to GOP presidential candidates. Freedom Partners is the funding arm of the Koch brothers political network (AFP is also funded by the Koch brothers, the billionaire right-wing financiers/bogeymen). Question #7 suggests that these big-money groups will give national candidates a litmus test on King. If the plaintiffs win…read their lips, no new subsidies:
If repealed by the Supreme Court, would you support extending federal subsidies for health insurance in states without exchanges, even if it would extend individual and employer mandates?
The diehard crowd opposed to any extension of subsidies will have backers in Congress as well. While the House leadership is pushing phony veto-bait that would masquerade as a fix to the crisis, the Tea Party contingent (call them the Cotton Cruzers) will insist on immediate repeal, offering no help at all to those harmed by King. You’ll never guess which approach is favored by noisy right-wing advocacy groups like Heritage Action. The Hill reports:
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) rolled out a bill Thursday that would repeal most parts of ObamaCare if the court rules against the government in King v. Burwell.
Unlike recently unveiled plans from House leadership, Gosar’s plan does not include any extension of the subsidies.
That approach was immediately praised by Heritage Action, which has strongly opposed the continuation of the subsidies because they said it will “simply cover up the law’s costs while giving the impression Republicans believe subsidies are necessary for Americans to afford health insurance.”
The group described Gosar’s plan as a “conservative response to King v. Burwell.”