January 8, 2015

Scott Walker is the Republican version of Jonathan Gruber. He's no fan of the Affordable Care Act; indeed, he's a Kochhead and therefore wants to kill it and all those newly insured people with it.

Nevertheless, he has managed to destroy the central argument going before the United States Supreme Court intended to gut Obamacare.


The Affordable Care Act gives states a choice: they can either set up an exchange where consumers can buy subsidized insurance plans or they can elect to have the federal government set up this exchange for them. Consumers with income below a certain level qualify for tax credits to help them afford this insurance. A case called King v. Burwell, however, asks the justices to cut off these tax credits in states with federally-run exchanges — an effort that could potentially collapse the individual insurance markets in those states if it succeeds. The plaintiffs’ premise in King is that Obamacare was never intended to offer credits to people in states with federally-run exchanges. Indeed, by reading one passage of the Affordable Care Act out of context, they claim that the law unambiguously states that only state-run exchanges are allowed to provide tax credits.

But that’s not the conclusion Walker reached after spending a couple of years considering the question. Rather, in his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Walker explains that there is no practical difference whatsoever between state-run and federally-run exchanges:

Governor Walker didn't come up with this on his own. He brought in experts -- or I should say, the Kochs brought in experts -- to consult on whether it made sense for the state to set up the exchange or they should leave it in the hands of the Federal government. His conclusion?

This really isn’t an exchange that the states run or even run in a partnership. The federal government determines what’s going to be covered. How it’s going to be covered. And the only distinction is whether or not a state can say that they’re running it, put up a sign that says they are running it. But, in the end, there’s no real substantive difference between a federal exchange, or a state exchange, or the in between, the hybrid, the partnership. And so I said, if I can’t run it, if I don’t have control over it, why would I take the responsibility of explaining to people something that I don’t have any control over.

And there you have it. If there is no substantive difference between the exchanges, then there's no difference in how subsidies are treated.

Of course, you're not seeing this hitting the fan the way Gruber's off-the-cuffs comments did, because right-wing media has no intention of making a potential occupant of the 2016 Clown Car irrelevant before he even launches his exploratory committee. Also, he's a Republican, so there's that.

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