June 17, 2015

Golly, who could have guessed that Senate Republicans would dangle out the empty promise that they'd extend subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for a couple of years before they didn't anymore?

Their moves are like a double Lucy/Charlie Brown moment. First they want everyone to believe they care about what happens to people if the Supreme Court guts the subsidies in states without exchanges. And then they want the press to believe they are Very Serious People when it comes to "saving people from the law" that's actually working for those very same people!

It is, therefore, with a halfhearted nod in the general direction of asses in Congress that I bring you their latest offer to hold the football.

Republicans plan to frame the extension as a way to help people who would lose subsidies because of the law’s flawed construction, not as an extension of Obamacare. Sources said they may even call it a “grandfathering” of the existing subsidies.

“We’re going to be prepared,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “We wouldn’t call them subsidies. But we’d certainly keep people whole so that they wouldn’t suffer because of this interim time.”

Hatch and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that restoring the subsidies through the end of 2017 was on the table, although other sources said that no timeline had been determined. That timeline will give the next president the ability to craft a replacement health plan. Insurers will also be watching the timeline closely as they set rates many months before a plan year begins.

So here's the thing. If they don't want people to suffer, then there's no need for a 2-year extension of the subsidies. They might as well just extend them forever, should the Supreme Court majority decide to let us all die quickly.

And indeed, this is just more nodding and promising not to yank back the football, as you'll see from all the qualifiers.

After the Wednesday meeting, several Republicans said that there was broad consensus for the outline of the plan but cautioned that the details will be important — and all of it could change depending on the wording of the court’s ruling. If the court sides with the challengers, it could delay its ruling for an indefinite period of time.

The GOP goal before the ruling is to get their fractured conference in the same place — then link across chambers with House members to make sure that congressional Republicans are all on the same page. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has spoken out against a long-term extension of the subsidies, did not speak in the meeting.

You see, this isn't about the people who might lose subsidies. This is about wrestling the mad chicken that the Republican Party has become.

This is where Democrats turn around and walk away from Lucy, and her godforsaken football. It would be good for reporters to do it too. No need to report "rumors" and pretend they're anything but smoke signals for their 2016 contenders.


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