A Halbig victory, according to Brian Beutler, could actually hurt and divide Republicans :
The Republicans who opted out of the Medicaid expansion had Obamacare’s implementation timeline on their side. At the time of the ruling in 2012, zero people in the country were eligible for expanded Medicaid, because the Medicaid expansion wasn’t effective until January 1, 2014. Republican governors could opt out without making anyone’s lives worse. Or rather, they could make people’s lives worse without taking anything away from them.
That won’t be the case if the Court invalidates Obamacare subsidies in Healthcare.gov states. People will lose their health plans, and will expect their state and Congressional representatives to reinstate them.
To illustrate his point, he describes what happened in Arkansas, where the governor was able to implement the ACA but the legislature had to authorize accepting the federal funds. Thousands of Arkansans were already receiving benefits, and numerous Republicans were reluctant to take away what were by then existing benefits, so they voted to pass the authorization.
Brian probably didn’t realize that yesterday his prediction was already being confirmed, albeit in a slightly different scenario. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette signed on to the Halbig case. Michigan never instituted its own exchange, but enough Michigan Republicans sided with the state’s Republican governor Rick Snyder and voted to expand Medicaid. As reported by the Michigan political newsletter MIRS (subscription only, excerpt here), Republican legislators at a health care conference were not at all happy with Schuette:
When pressed by the moderator on what he would have advised Schuette had the GOP Attorney General called for advice on wading into the Halbig v Burwell case, Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) responded: “Back off.”
“I think I understand the reasons why he did. Maybe at the time I might have. [But] this is an issue that a lot of us spent a lot of time digging into.”
Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) also took exception to the AG’s involvement in the case.
“The Affordable Care Act is here, I don’t understand the logic of actually taking the benefit of it away,” he explained.
Sen. Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion) argued that none of the panelists voted for Obamacare in Washington D.C. – but now that it is law, what state legislators need to do is “protect our citizens. “That’s why I believe if we had our exchange we could have done that easier.”
Beutler didn’t discuss was the Democratic response to “
Democrats Republicans Divided! (Halbig Edition).” The situation in Michigan suggests that it may be an effort to exploit those Republican divisions. That’s what Mark Totten, Michigan’s Democratic candidate for AG, did with an aggressive op-ed in today’s Detroit News:
A federal court accepted Attorney General Bill Schuette’s argument that hundreds of thousands of Michigan families are ineligible for federal tax credits to purchase health insurance. If the ruling stands, Bill Schuette will have denied working Michigan families tax credits averaging $4,700…Think about that. Michigan’s Attorney General chose to champion a lawsuit to take almost two months’ worth of paychecks from a half million Michigan families.
In 2010, attacking Obamacare helped the GOP win the House. In 2012 Barack Obama didn’t run from Obamacare, but it wasn’t the lynchpin of his campaign. But if Beutler is right about Republican divisions, and Totten’s populist response is the first of many such reactions, 2014 could be marked by a vigorous Obamacare counterattack.