Reversing The Spin:: Is Obamacare In Trouble?

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I was all set to write about education policy this week, I really was. I’m very excited about the Better Schools, Better Jobs initiative, and I’ve got some other thoughts on school funding that I wanted to share. But that’s going to have to wait for another time, because a big story happened on Tuesday as I was preparing to write. You may remember in the summer of 2012, the Affordable Care Act was (mostly) upheld by the Supreme Court. That was the last major Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare until the Hobby Lobby decision a few weeks ago, and that one only dealt with a fairly minor part of the law. But on Tuesday, two lower courts ruled on a case that could completely demolish the law, at least in Mississippi and many other states.

The question these courts had to answer basically boils down to if the subsidies granted under the law to make the insurance affordable can be granted to people in states that decided to use the federal exchange (Healthcare.gov) as opposed to their own state exchange. If the courts rule against the law, then it would be essentially dead in Mississippi and 30 to 35 other states because the insurance would become massively expensive.

Tuesday was a very confusing day for this question, because one court ruled against the law, and one ruled in favor of it. Undoubtedly the case will end up going to the Supreme Court in the next year or two, and then we’ll know if the law is actually going to survive. I’m of the opinion that the case against the law is pretty weak, but who knows what judges are going to rule, particularly those appointed by Republicans.

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But I understand that. Different judges have different judicial philosophies, and there certainly is a case to be made here, even i I don’t agree with it. What I don’t understand is the sheer delight that so many people have when they hear that Obamacare is in danger. After the ruling that went against the law came out, some people took to Twitter and were practically beside themselves with glee. They immediately started gloating over the ruling, with no appreciation of its human cost.

Whether someone agrees with some of the provisions of Obamacare or not, what cannot be denied is the real, positive, potentially life-altering impact that it has on literally millions of people. Charles Gaba at acasignups.org has done a great job of estimating the number of people who have gotten health insurance directly through this law, which stands now at at least 24 million people. Many of these people had been uninsured, or would not have insurance now if not for the law. In general this population would be sicker, they would be poorer, and some of them would be dead if not for Obamacare. This is the reality. That’s not even to mention the reforms that were made to the insurance market–like no longer being able to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions–that apply to EVERYBODY, even people who get insurance without going through the exchanges. This is a big deal!

So when people cheer the supposed death blow to Obamacare (it’s not; the case will probably be reversed on appeal), I just shake my head. There are definitely problems with the law, and I understand some of the concerns, even if I don’t agree with them. But Obamacare is saving lives. Many people who are screaming for its demise don’t understand that if it goes away, there will be a real price to pay.

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