Nobody who watched the genesis of Obamacare could have conceived that we would get to this point. When a federal appeals court ruled last week that the law's subsidies were not available in the 36 states that used HealthCare.gov this year, it was the culmination of a unexpectedly turbulent legislative process and five ensuing years of willful Republican obstructionism that puts health coverage for nearly 5 million people at risk.
Separate state and federal exchanges were never supposed to exist. A national exchange, a more fully formed HealthCare.gov, if you will, was preferred by House Democrats and the White House. But unforeseen political changes forced Congress and the president to accept state exchanges with a federal backstop.
But then nobody really believed that states would chose not to set up their own exchanges. Until, fueled by the conservative legal challenges that they hoped would undo Obamacare as a whole as well as the politically motivated defiance of Republican governors, a substantial majority of states defaulted to the federal exchange.
Then enterprising opponents of the law discovered the language in one provision of the ACA that is now at the heart of their current legal challenge. They're arguing Congress didn't actually intend for subsidies to go through a federal exchange, even though a fully federal exchange is originally what many members and the White House wanted. Meanwhile, the law's defenders, as well as many journalists who covered its passage like Vox's Sarah Kliff and The New Republic's Brian Beutler, are being confronted with a scenario that they never could have anticipated after years of covering the law's drafting and implementation. It seems simply unthinkable to most of those who have tracked the law closely. But here we are.
This is how it happened.
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