Obama Says King v. Burwell Is an ‘Easy Case’

Obama Says King v. Burwell Is an ‘Easy Case’

Sylvia Burwell
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

House Republicans are gearing up to grill Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell this week over how the administration will handle any potential fallout if the Supreme Court strikes down federal subsidies for health insurance coverage in 34 states operating on the federal exchange. Burwell will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, ahead of the high court’s ruling in the high-stakes case of King v. Burwell, expected later this month. 

The plaintiffs in that case contend that the law’s language only provides for subsidies to people in states that created their own exchange. The Obama administration and authors of the law maintain that the law was intended to offer subsidies to all enrollees who are eligible based on their income regardless of which exchange they used. 

Related: If Obamacare Collapses, These 9 Ideas Could Save Health Care 

If the court rules against the administration, an estimated 6.5 million people could lose their subsidized health coverage. If that happens, experts say it could create a ripple effect throughout health insurance markets in federal exchange states. Nearly everyone agrees that such a ruling would be devastating for millions of Americans. However, there is little agreement over what, if anything, to do to stem such fallout if the court rules for the plaintiffs. 

Asked why his administration has given little guidance to states on how to prepare for the potential loss of federal insurance subsidies, President Obama on Monday said, “there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case.” 

King v. Burwell “should be an easy case,” Obama said. “Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.” 

Obama added that Congress could also resolve any problems raised by a court ruling “with a one-sentence provision.” 

Related: Double Digit Rate Hikes Loom for Obamacare 2016  

That kind of response is unlikely to satisfy House Republicans, who are likely to again question Burwell’s previous claims that the administration does not have a “Plan B” in place if the court strikes down federal subsidies for millions of Americans. 

Last week, during a Wall Street Journal breakfast, Burwell explained that the administration’s authority is limited. She added that her agency would work with states that are considering creating their own exchanges or using workarounds to avoid losing out on the federal subsidies. 

“As always, we will stand ready to work with states, but in terms of administrative authority, we can’t do much,” Burwell said. 

Republicans, who have long sought to repeal Obamacare, have criticized the administration for not having a contingency plan in place if the subsidies get struck down. 

Chart of the Day: Trump's Huge Proposed Cuts to Public Investment

Trump budget arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington
KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Ben Ritz of the Progressive Policy Institute slams President Trump’s new budget:

“It would dismantle public investments that lay the foundation for economic growth, resulting in less innovation. It would shred the social safety net, resulting in more poverty. It would rip away access to affordable health care, resulting in more disease. It would cut taxes for the rich, resulting in more income inequality. It would bloat the defense budget, resulting in more wasteful spending. And all this would add up to a higher national debt than the policies in President Obama’s final budget proposal.”

Here’s Ritz’s breakdown of Trump’s proposed spending cuts to public investment in areas such as infrastructure, education and scientific research:

Chart of the Day: The Decline in Corporate Taxes

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Since roughly the end of World War Two, individual income taxes in the U.S. have equaled about 8 percent of GDP. By contrast, the Tax Policy Center says, “corporate income tax revenues declined from 6% of GDP in 1950s to under 2% in the 1980s through the Great Recession, and have averaged 1.4% of GDP since then.”

Tax Refunds Rebound

Flickr / Chris Potter
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Smaller refunds in the first few weeks of the current tax season were shaping up to be a political problem for Republicans, but new data from the IRS shows that the value of refund checks has snapped back and is now running 1.3 percent higher than last year. The average refund through February 23 last year was $3,103, while the average refund through February 22 of 2019 was $3,143 – a difference of $40. The chart below from J.P. Morgan shows how refunds performed over the last 3 years. 

Number of the Day: $22 Trillion

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The total national debt surpassed $22 trillion on Monday. Total public debt outstanding reached $22,012,840,891,685.32, to be exact. That figure is up by more than $1.3 trillion over the past 12 months and by more than $2 trillion since President Trump took office.