For anyone who didn't realize what an utter sham the King v. Burwell case is by now... (UPDATED)
2018 MIDTERM ELECTION
Time: D H M S
I'm not a lawyer, but I've always understood that in order for a case to be brought to court, there generally has to be, you know, a plaintiff. That is, as far as I know, a lawyer can't just file a suit and have it taken up by the Supreme Court of the United States just because they don't happen to approve of a law; there has to be someone who can claim that they were actually harmed by it (or at least by a particular provision of the law as enacted or enforced). Alternately, they have to at the very least have "standing" to challenge the law under the legal definition of such, no matter how thin the argument may be.
This is why, even though the Koch Bros-founded/funded, ultra-libertarian CATO institute, along with the similarly right-wing American Enterprise Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute "think tanks" are behind one of the most idiotic lawsuits ever to make it's way to the Supreme Court, technically speaking they aren't the plaintiffs. That's why it's called "King v. Burwell" (or, in the case of the other similar case which grabbed the headlines last summer, "Halbig v. Burwell") instead of "Koch Bros v. Burrell" or "Ayn Rand v. Burwell" (you know, the lady who railed against the taxpayer-funded social safety net while taking full advantage of it herself).
So, who is this "King"? Surely it's someone whose life or livelihood would be utterly devastated if they were forced to accept the horror of decent healthcare coverage at a reasonable price, right?
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit designed by conservative advocates to destroy Obamacare. If the plaintiffs prevail, about 8 million people could lose their health insurance. Premiums are likely to skyrocket by 35 percent or more, threatening coverage for millions of others. Health policy experts have estimated that nearly 10,000 people a year could die prematurely if they lose their coverage. Obamacare itself could collapse.
The King case started out as a legal theory hatched by a group of conservative lawyers in 2010 at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the right-leaning think tank...But CEI had to recruit plaintiffs—actual people who could claim they had been harmed by the Affordable Care Act in a particular way—to launch its lawsuit.
So who are the two men and two women that CEI handpicked to front its assault on Obamacare? What harm had they suffered as a result of the health care law? And why are they willing to put their names on a suit that could jeopardize the health coverage of millions of fellow Americans?
I set out to track down the plaintiffs to hear in their own words why they had decided to take part in the case, and it soon became evident that CEI had struggled to find suitable candidates. Three of the four plaintiffs are nearly eligible for Medicare, meaning their objections to Obamacare will soon be moot. Two of them appear to qualify for hardship exemptions—that is, they are not forced to acquire insurance or pay fines because even with a subsidy insurance would eat up too much of their incomes—so it's unclear how Obamacare had burdened them. These two plaintiffs seemed driven by their political opposition to President Obama; one has called him the "anti-Christ" and said he won election by getting "his Muslim people to vote for him." Yet most curious of all, one of the plaintiffs did not recall exactly how she'd been recruited for the case and seemed unaware of the possible consequences if she wins. Told that millions could lose their health coverage if the Supreme Court rules in her favor, she said that didn't want this to happen.
Read the whole thing. It's pretty pathetic, really.
Last spring, the Koch Brothers-funded Obamacare attack ads from featured a series of sob stories which ranged from utter bullsh*t to vastly exaggerated (featuring "victims" who, by an amazing coincidence, just happened to also be heavily involved with Republican party operations or, even more blatantly, actors pretending to non-existent people "suffering" from the eeeeevils of Obamacare).
Remember, if “Obamacare” were really so awful, it’d be incredibly easy to find legitimate horror stories that stood up well to scrutiny. Indeed, ACA “victims” would be everywhere, eager to tell their story.
The fact that these attack ads are so routinely – and so easily – discredited speaks volumes.
The King v. Burwell case fits exactly the same pattern. The Koch Bros/CATO/AEI/CEI/GOP alphabet soup searched far and wide to find someone, anyone who could remotely fit the legal requirements to claim to have been "harmed" by the Affordable Care Act (specifically the tax credits provided to reduce the cost of healthcare coverage for those very people), and this is the best they could come up with (trust me, it's rather jaw-dropping...read the whole thing).
UPDATE: I've added a sentence in the opening paragraph to clarify: Yes, the "plaintiffs" may techncially speaking have "standing" here...but that doesn't change the fact that it's a pathetically thin argument. Again, if the federal subsidies were actually impacting people negatively, there should be plenty of people for the King plaintiffs to choose from...people who a) aren't already eligible for government healthcare via the VA; b) aren't on the verge of becoming eligible via Medicare; c) do have a high enough income that they wouldn't qualify for a hardship exepmption; d) don't necessarily already have a massive bias against the Obama administration to start with; and e) actually were aware of the fact that they were plaintiffs in a federal case and agree with the consequences of the case in the event that they were to win it.
UPDATED 2/10/15: Greg Sargent reports even more chewing-gum-and-duct tape holding the plaintiffs together:
The latest: The Wall Street Journal is raising new questions about the standing of two of the plaintiffs in the case, after previously raising questions about the standing of two others.
The Journal reports that Rose Luck, one of the four names on the King v. Burwell lawsuit, previously listed a short-term-stay motel as her address, but is no longer there. Her address is directly relevant, the Journal says, because it was used to calculate her eligibility for subsidies, which determined that she is subject to the mandate — and, hence, can claim injury. The question is whether her standing at the time the lawsuit was filed is enough, or, as one expert puts it, if “standing is dynamic and has to be present at all times.”
Strikingly, a spokesperson for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is bankrolling the case, told the Journal that Ms. Luck still lives in Virginia, but declined to say where.
The ground is crumbling beneath this case quickly. Good thing Obamacare covers falling injuries...
Seriously, though, as noted above, as long as at least one person does fit the technical, legal definition of "having standing", I don't suppose it will matter...but to me, the fact that the Wall Street Journal is doing serious investigation and reporting on this issue strongly suggests that the corporate interests are starting to get very, very nervous about the King case...