Obama Can’t “Fix” Obamacare if SCOTUS Screws It Up

In case you were hoping another “executive action” could save Obamacare if the Supreme Court rules the statute excluded purchasing subsidies for people buying insurance on federally-created exchange, it doesn’t look like that’s a lively option, per Sam Baker at National Journal.

If the Supreme Court tears apart Obamacare this summer, the president won’t be able to put it back together all by himself.

Executive action is all the rage in the White House these days, and it’s hard to imagine a better candidate for unilateralism than fixing the Affordable Care Act in the wake of a crippling Supreme Court decision. That scenario would check every box: Republican intransigence; a top priority for Obama; and severe disruption in real people’s lives.

There’s just one problem: A good administrative solution might not exist.

“There are no administrative fixes that are realistic,” said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress. “We don’t believe there’s any administrative fix.”

If Neera says so, I’m inclined to believe her. So that means Congress must “fix” it, or the 36 affected states must do so. In theory, it wouldn’t be hard at all; Congress could simply add a sentence to ACA making the subsidies available to all buying insurance under the Act; states could “deem” the federally-created exchanges as their own. The problem, of course, is getting Republicans at either level to go along, even though this time it’s going to be a lot of their people, not those people, who are affected. As a starting point, as I keep insisting, conservative opinion-leaders are going to need to begin educating “the base” that a SCOTUS decision killing the subsidies but leaving the rest of ACA in place is not grounds for wild celebrations of joy. And I’m not seeing a lot of evidence of that happening.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.