The Court ruled that a Medicaid expansion couldbe an unconstitutional federal coercion of the states, but thisexpansion does not have a penalty large enough to pass that threshold. Interestingly, the Court opened up the possibility that governors could refuse the Medicaid expansion. Those same individuals would then be eligible for subsidies in the exchanges. Ifall the governors refused the expansion, and if individuals take up subsidized insurance the federal cost heads even farther north.
In a bit of a pyrrhic victory, the Forum’s amicus briefs, signed by over 200 economists, were cited twice in the Court’s dissenting opinion.
The field of play now shifts from a legal battle to a policy debate. In addition to the Court’s endorsement of the policy foundations of the challenge to the ACA, the fundamental policy flaws remain.
The ACA remains a damaging, anti-growth vehicle for taxation. The so-called Medicare surtax increases marginal tax rates on the return to saving, investment, and innovation. The medical device tax will hurt innovation and cost jobs. A bill to repeal it is gathering dust in the Senate. Also, the insurers fee – the “premium tax” –will roil insurance markets, disrupt patient-provider relationships, and the vast majority of the burden will fall on the middle class.
The ACA remains an unwise expansion of entitlement programs at a dangerous fiscal moment in U.S. history. The U.S. has suffered a downgrade, has a debt-to-GDP ratio over 100 percent – a level historically associated with 1 percentage point slower growth and a heightened probability of financial crisis – and faces a spending-driven explosion of debt over the next decade. Also, the ACA does not reform Medicare, which has a cash-flow deficit of nearly $300 billion annually and is responsible for one-fourth of all federal debt since 2001.
Finally, the ACA is a vast regulatory expansion. The overall regulatory burden has cost the private sector and states $21.9 billion thus far. The regulations are so extensive that HHS has missed 20 of 42 deadlines. The medical-loss ratio (MLR) regulation harms insurance innovation. And the Independent Payment Advisory Board is a bureaucratic intrusion on seniors’ care that will harm medical innovation.
Americans wanted real healthcare reform in 2009 that provided quality care at lower cost and better health insurance options. They did not want a costly government intrusion that threatened private coverage and promised a legacy of debt to the next generations. The policy battle is to give Americans the healthcare reform they wanted and still deserve.