By Rep. Kevin Brady
Americans forced out of their healthcare plans and into the president's unpopular Affordable Care Act may face another jarring disruption later this summer. That's when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected on whether the IRS violated the law when the agency ruled taxpayer subsidies could be expanded to federal exchanges.
The law as written is clear: the subsidies are available only for state exchanges. The White House, desperate to salvage its troubled healthcare takeover, ignored the law and directed the scandal-ridden IRS to expand the generous subsidies.
A Supreme Court ruling against the IRS could eliminate ACA subsidies for nearly 5 million people in the 37 states that wisely rejected a state exchange.
Republicans have waged a principled fight again the controversial law due to the harm it has caused patients, local businesses and healthcare givers. The U.S. House recently voted to again repeal the ACA and replace it with patient-centered health care. But with Senate Democrats blocking debate and President Obama vowing to veto the bill, experts have predicted "repeal and replace" will have to wait until 2017 and a Republican president.
If the court rules against the IRS in June, though, it offers Republicans in Congress and statehouses across America the best opportunity in years to effectively repeal a key foundation of the ACA and offer patients in 37 states the option of affordable, patient-driven, free market health care.
Republicans in Congress have three choices if the Supreme Court strikes down the illegal subsidies. They can surrender to the White House and pass legislation expanding ACA subsidies to the federal exchanges. Secondly, they can ignore the court ruling and leave 5 million families in the lurch. These families, some battling cancer and chronic illnesses, others requiring expensive medicines and urgent medical care, didn't choose ObamaCare. The law required them to buy government-approved health care or pay the IRS. This will generate tremendous political pressure on governors and states to hastily approve a state exchange. That pressure will be highest in the 12 states that President Obama won in the recent presidential election, including Michigan, Ohio, Iowa and Florida.
Or Republicans can deliver on their promises by passing a patient-centered alternative that offers a better option than the ACA. For example, a possible GOP alternative could give states the power to opt out of much of the law and tailor health plans to their citizens. States could create patient-oriented free-market exchanges that offer health plans without the expensive mandates and regulations that make ObamaCare so expensive. Families and workers could have more affordable choices without the hidden costs of the ACA. Local businesses would not face crippling mandates that discourage hiring and drive up costs. Small businesses would be able to join together and buy health care across state lines to make it more affordable.
As leader of the Health subcommittee of House Ways & Means, I favor the third option. I've always believed there was a better solution than ObamaCare. Our GOP goal to dismantle, delay and defund the ACA until Americans can be free of this law will be dramatically accelerated if the court rules correctly and Republicans quickly step in with a free market alternative.
It's time to be bold.