Supreme Court Set to Devastate Millions of Lives Later This Year. But Will They Pull the Trigger?

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Greg Sargent notes that the future of Obamacare is one of the big political unknowns of the new year:

One of the big, looming questions of 2015 is this: Will the Supreme Court really gut Obamacare subsidies in the three dozen states on the federal exchange, potentially depriving millions of health coverage at a moment when the law, now heading into its second year, is clearly working as intended?

One thing to watch as we approach the SCOTUS hearings on King v. Burwell this spring is how many people are newly qualifying for subsidies in those states as this year’s enrollment period continues….We could be looking at a lot of people who would lose subsidies in the event of a bad SCOTUS ruling, perhaps more overall than previous estimates of around four million. And the enrollment period still has six weeks to go.

I’ve guesstimated previously that around 6 million would be affected in 2016 if the Supreme Court kills subsidies on the federal exchange later this year. Charles Gaba figures it’s somewhere around 5-6 million this year. That’s a lot of people who would face one of two things: (a) an increase of maybe $2-5,000 in their health care premiums, or (b) an end to health care coverage completely because they flatly can’t afford the unsubsidized premiums.

Will this affect the court’s thinking? It’s hard to think of a comparable case where a ruling would have had such an immediate, devastating effect on millions of ordinary people. If anything, that gives me hope. Will John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy really be willing to inflict that kind of real-world pain, regardless of their ideological convictions? Maybe not. At least, I hope not, because I’ve basically given up on the idea that the Supreme Court is anything other than crudely results-oriented these days. Especially on the conservative side of the aisle, they simply don’t seem to care much about law or precedent or common sense anymore. They like what they like and they hate what they hate, and they shape their opinions to match.

Maybe that’s just the despair of a liberal who’s seen a lot of cases go against him over the past few years. Maybe. But I guess we’re going to find out later this year.

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