WH: 'No Contingency Plan' If SCOTUS Rules Against Obamacare Subsidies

By Susan Jones | March 5, 2015 | 6:11am EST

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

(CNSNews.com) - If the Supreme Court rules that only state-run exchanges may offer subsidized health insurance, there will be no "easy or obvious fix," because the "Republican Congress" is incapable of "solving what should be a problem that's easy to solve," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

Earnest said the Obama administration has no contingency plan if the Supreme Court rules against a key provision of the law:

"It's important for people to understand that there is no contingency plan that could be implemented that would prevent the catastrophic damage that would be done by essentially undermining the Affordable Care Act with an adversarial ruling on this."

"[T]here have been a number of questions that we've received about, like, 'Well, you know, if the case goes against you, what's the administration going to do,' or, 'What is the administration planning to do if that eventually comes about.' And the truth is, is that there are no easy answers. There is no simple step, no obvious step, that anybody can take that would prevent this catastrophic damage from taking place.

"We would see millions of people lose their health insurance, we would see -- prices would likely go through the roof, and there's not a whole lot, frankly, that the government could do about it other than Congress passing legislation to fix it.

"But I think we're all pretty realistic about the likelihood that that's going to happen, because we have majorities in both the House and Senate that A, struggle mightily to do even the simplest, most politically popular things, like funding the Department of Homeland Security; but B, we also know that they have fought tooth and nail to try and undermine the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.

The reason they have done that is not entirely clear to me, but that's their position nonetheless.

""So, you know, I've never -- I have not encountered anybody who has said, 'Look, here's an easy way we could avoid this problem,' other than through the legislation path, which is frankly not one that's available."

Earnest insisted that Obamacare is "working really well" as it is now constructed. By making some people pay more for insurance, including coverage for things they don't want or need, the majority of subscribers are able to pay less.

Earnest insisted that "the law is really clear," and he said Obamacare opponents are taking four words -- in a 900-page law -- "entirely out of the context...to contort it to mean what the plaintiffs in this case want it to mean."  

The question before the Supreme Court is whether the Internal Revenue Service, by regulation, can extend tax credit subsidies to people who purchase health insurance on the federal exchange. Four words in the law specify that only exchanges "established by the State" may offer subsidized health insurance. But most states let the federal government set up their exchanges for them.

A reporter asked if there is any way the Obama White House could find even a starting point for "compromise" with Republicans, if the Supreme Court guts the law.

"For years, we have been seeing Republicans promise to put forward an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and that's yet to materialize," he replied. "And I haven't seen anybody put forward, on the Republican side, a good-faith proposal that would solve this problem.

"And again, that speaks to congressional dysfunction, and it speaks to the way in which this issue has been politicized and used by opponents -- political opponents of the president to try to win -- score political points even if it means taking away health insurance for millions of Americans. That's a shame and I think it's disappointed a lot of observers of our political process. And it certainly is part of what contributes to the abysmal approval ratings of Congress."

"So it's fair to say that you disagree with Justice Scalia, who said that he's confident that Congress would act quickly to fix any problems that the court's decision might cause?" a reporter asked.

"Well, Justice Scalia is, of course, a well-credentialed legal scholar and is entitled to draw the conclusions that he would like. But I would just observe, as somebody who is not at all a legal scholar, but is somebody who -- some might describe it as an occupational hazard -- has been closely watching the activities of Congress over the last couple of months. And it is not clear that Congress can do even easy, non-controversial things."


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