“The King v. Burwell story ends today.” So wrote “New Republic” senior editor and frequent MSNBC guest Brian Beutler yesterday, following the Supreme Court’s much-awaited — and, it turns out once again, jaw-dropping — ruling. Beutler’s jubilant declaration is the last sentence in a chest-thumping paragraph that begins this way:
[Chief Justice John Roberts] authored an opinion, joined by the Court’s four liberals, and conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, that leaves the law’s challengers with the measliest of consolation prizes: He allowed that they, in all their certitude of hindsight, weren’t completely insane. They put forth a plausible-seeming construction of the statute, but one that’s ultimately impermissible, in part because their supporting theory — that Congress intended to use the law’s subsidies as a weapon against states — is completely risible.
The sentiment, which contains more than a hint of hyperbole, was collected together with other equally giddy interpretations of the high court’s ruling under the title “Game Over, Obamacare Haters.” It’s hard to know how many of the 164 million Americans that Beutler was addressing saw his column, but suffice it to say that Obamacare haters outnumber Obamacare lovers by 25 million, according to the latest Real Clear Politics averages.
Wherein lies the problem for Beutler and company. Despite the best hopes of the far left, including the administration, which assured us early on that once we got to know Obamacare we’d like it, the Affordable Care Act remains wildly unpopular. It is so disliked that the American people have, since its passage, wrested away from Democrats control of both houses of Congress, without which the law would never have seen the light of day.
The public antipathy toward Obamacare is easily explained by a simple checklist of its failed promises. Americans were not permitted to keep their doctors and/or health plans. Annual health insurance premiums did not decrease by $2,500 on average per family but, rather, rose, in some localities having more than doubled. And while the law did insure an estimated 8 million Americans who were previously uninsured, it did so only by forcing 4 million other Americans to pay a non-compliance penalty (tax if you’re John Roberts), according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.
What all this means ultimately is that Republican efforts to repeal and replace this law, the goal of which, despite Obama’s cynical reading, was never purely to spite him, will continue apace. If the GOP retains control of Congress and takes the White House (and only then), expect that to happen. In the meantime, game on!
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