Now pause for a moment and consider what it is Republicans are asking the courts to do here. They want millions of Americans to lose the subsidies they got this year, in many if not most cases making health insurance completely unaffordable for them, and their justification is this: We found a mistake in the law, so you people are screwed. As far as the Republicans are concerned, it’s like spotting that a batter’s toe missed second base as he was trotting around for his home run, and therefore claiming that they won the game after all.
But it’s not a game, it’s people’s lives. If they succeed at the Supreme Court, people will die. That’s not hyperbole. Millions of Americans will lose their health coverage — 6.5 million by one estimate — and many of them won’t be able to afford to go to the doctor, and many of them will have ailments that go untreated. People will die.
Pierce is also furious:
Simply put, there is almost an entire half of our political system that believes that a great number of Americans simply do not matter enough to make it economically feasible to help them stay healthy. They do not count. It does not matter how many of them die preventable deaths. It is better for the country, this half of the political system believes, that they grow sick and bankrupt themselves.
The D.C. Circuit applied the law that Congress enacted. Any downstream effects of Halbig are the result of the PPACA itself, not today’s ruling. If those effects are intolerable, then it is up to Congress to change the law, not the IRS. If Halbig results in people losing health-insurance subsidies, the blame lies with a president who recklessly offered millions of Americans tens of billions of dollars in subsidies he had no authority to offer, that could vanish with a single court ruling.
Waldman thinks this isn’t going to cut it:
If [prominent conservatives] really cared about those millions of Americans and their fate, they’d want to do something about it, now that the lawsuit they filed threatens to take away that health coverage. So what are they going to do? The answer is, nothing. There will be precisely zero conservatives who propose to actually help those people. And if you ask the lawsuit’s supporters what should happen to them, none will have anything resembling a practical suggestion.
Philip Klein sees how a Halbig victory could put Republican governors in a tough spot:
When it comes to Obamacare’s exchanges, Republican governors have been able to have it both ways. By refusing to set up state-based exchanges, they’ve been able to boast to conservatives that they rejected Obamacare. But because the Obama administration has been giving out subsidies in their states anyway, benefits are flowing to their residents. If Halbig were ultimately upheld, however, governors would be in a tight spot. Conservative activists would be pressuring them to hold the line and refuse to set up their own exchanges. But there would be an uproar from liberal groups, newspaper editorial boards, hospitals and insurance lobbyists, and protests from individuals who had been receiving subsidies and would be facing the loss of their insurance.