END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

Oklahoma Fed. Judge rules AGAINST HC.gov tax credits...but GOP shouldn't be celebrating too much

Hmmm...looks like I may have to dust off my "$360.00 GoDaddy Solution" after all...

A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that Obamacare subsidies provided on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange are invalid, agreeing with a ruling by a three-judge D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel against the subsidies.

The ruling, along with the fallout from the D.C. Circuit decision, could be a potentially significant defeat for the Obama administration.

On the one hand, this development probably makes it more likely that the SCOTUS will end up taking on the Halbig case (from the DC Circuit Court) after all (and/or the King case from the 4th Circuit...all three appear to focus on pretty much the same "federal exchange vs. state exchange" issue).

On the other hand, even if the SCOTUS does take on the case, it doesn't make their ruling one way or the other any more certain...and it will likely still be at least next spring/summer at the earliest before they actually get around to hearing arguments or issuing their ruling, which would be well after the 2nd open enrollment period is over.

Again, by that point, you'll have 2 full years of tax credits having already been issued. Assuming that a) around 13 million people enroll via the ACA exchanges, and b) around 75% of those are through the federal exchange (Healthcare.Gov), and c) around 85% of them receive tax credits of some amount, that means that a good 8.3 million people will have received tax credits from the federal government over a 2 year period.

Is the Supreme Court in general--and Chief Justice Roberts in particular--really going to be willing to say "up yours" to that many people? OK, yes; they already did that for about 4.8 million poor people in the half the states which refused to expand Medicaid.

On the other hand, that decision is starting to bite Republicans in those states in the butt now, since Medicaid expansion is quite popular even in deep red states.

Furthermore, as I've noted before:

...unlike the poorest citizens of the U.S., who tend not to vote or have much of a voice in the political process otherwise, most of these particular 8.3 million people aren't "dirt poor".

In fact, most of them likely aren't even members of the "working poor" who were screwed by the Medicaid expansion denial in half the states...(roughly $23K - $33K for a family of 4, though of course many states are even more restrictive on qualifying) and even those states are scrambling to reverse themselves without losing face as a result of the political fallout.

No, many/most of the 8.3 million people who would be screwed over by the SCOTUS ruling against the IRS on the Halbig/King cases would belong to what's left of the middle class (roughly $33K - $94K for a family of 4)...and they tend to vote.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, voter turnout by household income level was:

Under $10K: 39.1%
$10K - $15K: 36.6%
$15K - $20K: 40.9%
$20K - $30K: 46.4%
$30K - $40K: 50.8%
$40K - $50K: 57.2%
$50K - $75K: 63.7%
$75K - $100K: 70.0%
$100K - $150K: 73.1%
$150K and up: $76.9%

Notice any trends there?

That's why if I was a Republican, I wouldn't be jumping for joy at the prospect of "winning" Halbig/King at the end of the day.

In addition, as I noted at the top of this entry, even in a worst-case scenario, there's a relatively simple solution...one which I half-jokingly proposed way back on July 2nd, but which Serious People® were taking quite Seriously® later in the summer:

Gaba wrote there is "an incredibly stupid-sounding solution" to the problem of a potential Supreme Court ruling invalidating the HealthCare.gov subsidies. That solution, Gaba said, is having each of the 36 states spend about $9.95 apiece—or less—on website domain names that would say things like "HealthcareAlabama.gov," or "HealthcareAlaska.gov."

"Then, just set up those domains names to repoint to the appropriate subsection of HealthCare.gov," Gaba wrote.

Gaba suggested that would be enough to have a state "establish" an exchange, without actually having to do the heavy lifting of enrolling them in coverage.

Moncrieff said that idea is not as harebrained as it might appear.

"It's possible that, yes, you could set up a fake portal website that redirects to HealthCare.gov," she said. "It's possible that this could be a very cheap, easy fix."

And even if that solution wasn't legal under the ACA, it could take years of new litigation to resolve that question—which would keep the subsidies flowing, she said.