Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP 2016 candidate, suggested he would support temporarily extending at least some aspects of Obamacare if the Supreme Court strikes down a key provision in a pending case.
“I think you have to have a transition period. I can’t think of any other way to do this that’s thoughtful,” Perry told RealClearPolitics. “We moved a long way when this thing became law. You don’t turn around a huge ship just overnight. It takes a transition period. I think most Americans, whether they’re strict conservatives economically, would find that to be out of the realm of appropriate.”
The case the Supreme Court is expected to decide soon, King v. Burwell, could invalidate the subsidies of millions of Americans in at least 30 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. The challengers in the case say those subsidies are illegal due to a phrase in the law that says the subsidies are available in exchanges “established by the state.” If they succeed, health policy experts say the effect could be much broader than just 6.4 million Americans who receive the subsidies, as it would send the entire industry into chaos, and thus lawmakers have been scrambling to cobble a back-up plan if the high court decides to gut the law.
The challenge for Republicans is to maintain their opposition to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement while offering an alternative that will give them enough political cover to blame Democrats if American see their health insurance costs spike. Some GOP legislators have floated plans that would temporarily extend the subsidies until, they hope, a Republican would be in the White House to push a full-scale Obamacare repeal and replacement.
That approach appears to have Perry’s backing. Likewise, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also running for president, has signed on to a proposal offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that would maintain the subsidies until 2017 on the condition of eliminating other Obamacare provisions, such as the individual mandate. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has signaled support for Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-NE) plan, which would use gradually decreasing tax credits to wean consumers off of financial assistance for insurance.
Not every Republican is on board, however. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), has said he will oppose any extension of the subsides and prefers a plan that would let states just opt out of Obamacare altogether. As RealClearPolitics noted, many of the 2016 GOP candidates have stayed mum on the issue.
Democrats have pushed for Congress to just rewrite the phrase in question and would likely oppose any plan that would undermine the law.