Robert Pear today writes about an emerging lawsuit over the health care law that I touched on Thursday . The language around the insurance exchanges and whether the state or federal government runs them is sufficiently vague that conservative legal functionaries think they can exploit it:
Starting in 2014, the law requires most Americans to have health insurance. It also offers subsidies to help people pay for insurance bought through markets known as insurance exchanges.
At issue is whether the subsidies will be available in exchanges set up and run by the federal government in states that fail or refuse to establish their own exchanges.
Critics say the law allows subsidies only for people who obtain coverage through state-run exchanges. The White House says the law can be read to allow subsidies for people who get coverage in federal exchanges as well.
If courts rule that individuals seeking coverage on federally administered exchanges cannot receive coverage subsidies, then it gives every right-leaning state a reason to refuse to run the exchanges and collapse the law. The lack of subsidies would make health insurance unaffordable to almost everyone eligible to receive them. And it would put many of them on the hook for the mandate penalty if they cannot afford coverage (the subsidies will be worth on average $6,000 per person). This would make large groups of people angrier and angrier about Obamacare and put more and more pressure on to change the law. It would “prove” to people that the health care law merely forced people to buy coverage they can’t afford or else they would have to pay a tax. The reality is more like that they are forced to buy cheap, subsidized coverage they may not end up being able to use