(Bloomberg View) — Here’s the most charitable interpretation of the Republican case against Obamacare: The law’s changes to the individual insurance market have left people in that market worse off than before, by mandating broader, more expensive coverage and forcing people to buy it. Accordingly, whatever it takes to reverse those changes serves the interests of the people who are affected.
It’s especially important now for Republicans to be able to make that case. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on whether the law allows people in states that haven’t created their own Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges toreceive the federal subsidies that make insurance affordable — a decision that could affect 8 million people. If the court strikes down those subsidies and Republicans refuse to reinstate them by amending the law, the party’s only palatable defense is that it is refusing to save a system that most consumers don’t like.
Here’s the problem with that argument: It’s wrong, and the data show it’s wrong. A poll released Friday by the Commonwealth Fund finds that 81 percent of people who have coverage through an exchange are happy with their insurance. (Previous surveys have shown similar results.) That’s partly because 53 percent of those who now have coverage through an exchange were previously uninsured — the vast majority of them for a year or more. It also means that even among those who already had insurance, most like the new system.
It’s worth considering what those numbers mean for Republicans. If the party isn’t responding to the preferences of people who buy insurance on the individual market, what justification is there for refusing to save that market from a court ruling?
See also: PPACA: The lobbying horse race