The Affordable Care Act aka “ObamaCare” finished 2015 on a high note. So naturally, the first order of business for Tea-Publicans in 2016 is another assault on ObamaCare. They are like The Soup Nazi in Seinfeld, “No health care for you!”
Steve Benen reports on the success of ObamaCare. ‘Obamacare’ wrapping up 2015 on a high note:
The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment totals this year are not only excellent, they’re also exceeding projections and last year’s tallies. Sarah Kliff explained yesterday that the individual mandate – the policy Republicans embraced until President Obama agreed with them – is doing exactly what it was intended to do, which helps explain the encouraging data.
[R]ecent enrollment data shows that the mandate is working. The exact type of people the requirement was meant to target – young, healthy adults who might forgo coverage were it not for a government fine – signed up in record numbers this year.
Having a decent number of young and health people in the insurance pool is integral to making costs affordable for everyone, which is exactly why the mandate exists in the first place. And architects of Obamacare’s enrollment strategy say that talking about the mandate – something Obamacare supporters didn’t really start doing until 2015 – has been core to making it work.
The result is a system that’s working according to plan. A lot of younger consumers – the kind of folks who tend to be healthier – want to avoid the penalty of going without coverage, so they’re doing exactly what the ACA’s architects hoped they’d do: they’re buying insurance.
This, in turn, boosts enrollment totals, which lowers the uninsured rate, which helps keep costs down, which strengthens the financial health of the overall health care system.
Paul Krugman added the other day in Checking up on Obamacare, “One of the remarkable aspects of the politics of health reform is the way conservatives – even relatively mild, seemingly informed conservatives – have managed to keep believing that Obamacare is unraveling, despite the repeated failure of disaster predictions to come true. Part of the way this works is that captive media and the right’s pet ‘experts’ hype every bit of bad news, but go silent when the news is good (and, often, when the bad news turns out to have been a false alarm.) How many will even hear about the news that enrollments are once again running above expectations, and the pool is getting younger?”
As for the near future, ACA Signups Guru Charles Gaba projects enrollment totals to reach 14.7 million when all is said and done – at which point congressional Republicans will probably want to talk about anything other than Obamacare’s success.
Well, as a matter fact . . . the fifth and latest challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court to the Affordable Care Act, Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services, is challenging the individual mandate component of ObamaCare. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog writes, U.S. seeks to head off new review of ACA individual mandate:
Attempting to head off the fifth and latest challenge in the Supreme Court to the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has told the Justices that the individual protesting the mandate to buy insurance could not win even if he proved his constitutional point. His argument that the act was passed outside the limits of the Constitution would not make a difference because he is not covered by the version he opposes, according to the new government brief, filed on Monday and now available.
If the Court nevertheless took on the case of Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services, the new filing contended, the Court should reject the core challenge that he has raised just as it has every time it has come up before the Justices in past history. That argument is that a piece of federal legislation that raises some money for the U.S. government by a tax must begin its journey in the House of Representatives, under the so-called Origination Clause of Article I.
The individual at the center of the new ACA protest case is Matt Sissel, a portrait artist in Iowa City, Iowa, who served as an Army combat medic in Iraq. He does not have health insurance, and does not want to either buy a policy, as he is required to do under the ACA mandate, or pay a financial penalty to the government. His challenge, rejected by two lower courts, relies upon this constitutional provision: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”
When a House-passed minor tax bill that had nothing to do with health insurance reform reached the Senate in December 2009, the Senate erased all of the substance of that bill and substituted the massive ACA as a complete amendment. That version went back to the House, and gained approval there, and President Barack Obama signed it into law in March 2010.
When Sissel lost his case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a three-judge panel ruled that the Origination Clause only applies to bills that are intended to raise revenue, and not to those that may raise revenue but are actually intended to serve some other government purpose. The primary aim of the individual mandate, the panel decided, was to induce individuals to buy health insurance to make the overall economic project of health insurance reform work as a practical matter. Thus, the ACA did not even meet the definition of a bill governed by the Origination Clause, according to the panel.
When the eleven-member D.C. Circuit refused to reconsider the case en banc, four judges argued that the government should still win the case, but for a different reason. Those judges regarded the ACA as a bill to raise revenue, but they went on to rule that it did not violate the Origination Clause because of the second half of that clause — which authorizes the Senate to amend House-passed bills.
Replying, the Obama administration said that its view of the limited scope of the Origination Clause had been understood as the law since 1833, when Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story spelled it out that way in his constitutional commentaries. The Supreme Court embraced that view, the brief said, in decisions beginning in 1876 and continuing as recently as 1990.
Every judge who has considered Sissel’s claim, the brief commented, “has now rejected it, and the disagreement among some over the proper reason for rejecting it does not merit this Court’s review.” Quoting one of the Court’s prior precedents, the brief said the Court “reviews judgments, not statements in opinions.”
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The government’s brief noted that, a week after the ACA had become law, Congress passed a series of amendments of various parts of the ACA. One of those changed the formula for calculating how much an individual would have to pay the government for failing to obtain health insurance. That measure originated in the House and little change was made in it when it then went through the Senate and then went on to be signed by the president.
Sissel himself, the brief said, is not subject to the version of the individual mandate that he seeks to challenge — the original ACA — because his situation is actually covered by the amended version. As a result, the government said, Sissel “would not be entitled to relief even if he were correct that the original enactment of that provision in the Affordable Care Act is improper.”
Moreover, the brief said, in a final thrust, the House’s approval of the amendments to the ACA should cure a violation — if any had occurred — because its action reflected congressional ratification of the mandate through a procedure satisfying the origination requirement.
UPDATE: The Supreme Court has now scheduled this case to go before the Justices at their private Conference on January 15, according to the Court’s docket. If granted, this movement of the case so soon after the filings were completed helps assure that it could be finally decided in the current Term.
And finally, there are the dead-ender Tea-Publicans in Congress. Health care repeal vote to open a political year in Congress:
2016 will finally be the year when [Tea-Publicans] put legislation on President Barack Obama’s desk repealing his health care law.
The bill undoing the president’s prized overhaul will be the first order of business when the House reconvenes this coming week, marking a sharply partisan start on Capitol Hill to a congressional year in which legislating may take a back seat to politics.
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Obama will veto the health law repeal bill, which also would cut money for Planned Parenthood. The measure already has passed the Senate under special rules [Budget Reconciliation Process] protecting it from Democratic obstruction. But that’s the point for Republicans, who intend to schedule a veto override vote for Jan. 22, when anti-abortion activists hold their annual march in Washington to mark the anniversary of [Roe v. Wade] the Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion.
Despite dozens of past votes to repeal the health law in full or in part, Republicans never before have succeeded in sending a full repeal bill to the White House. They insist that doing so will fulfill promises to their constituents while highlighting the clear choice facing voters in the November presidential election.
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Every Republican candidate has pledged to undo the health law. The Democrats running for president would keep it in place.
“You’re going to see us put a bill on the president’s desk going after Obamacare and Planned Parenthood so we’ll finally get a bill on his desk to veto,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told conservative talk host Bill Bennett over the holidays.
“Then you’re going to see the House Republican Conference, working with our senators, coming out with a bold agenda that we’re going to lay out for the country, to say how we would do things very differently,” Ryan said.
So we’re going to be treated to more Kabuki theater in an attempt to appease the radical extremists of the GOP base with purely symbolic votes. Good luck with that! The ‘post-policy nihilism’ of the GOP will not result in any public policy, but rather more grist for the GOPropagandists of the conservative media entertainment complex for use in the 2016 election.
The AP report goes on to describe how the GOP will engage in more Kabuki theater in an attempt to appease the radical extremists of the GOP base: bills to “audit” the Federal Reserve, pause (or prohibit) Syrian war refugees from coming to the U.S., and more witch hunt Benghazi! hearings.
In other words, more of the same dysfunction in Congress. Everything is driven by the insatiable need of the the conservative media entertainment complex for the “outrage of the day” to keep Tea-Publicans angry and motivated. Poll: Whites and Republicans Rank as Angriest Americans.