The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Supreme Court would help Democrats by killing Obamacare

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Maybe the pending King v. Burwell decision will finally put Obamacare out of its misery. No matter what President Obama or Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell say, the truth is Obamacare is just limping along as another misguided, over-priced and underperforming government program. In practice, it’s not doing anything like what was promised. Like other big government programs, Obamacare is slowly building a constituency as more people succumb to the coerced dependency Democrats see as vital to their political strength. But even some Democrats privately acknowledge that the minimal positive impact the law is having is not worth the cost and that it isn’t getting any easier to defend.

So if Obamacare is brought down in the Supreme Court, it could actually help Obama and the Democrats save face. And it would keep Hillary Clinton from being distracted in 2016 by having to defend Obamacare as premiums continue to rise, overall healthcare costs keep going up and the program stagnates.

If the Supreme Court rules against the subsidies and the Democrats were smart, they would secretly admit Obamacare is a failure, blame Republicans and take it as an opportunity to quickly dispatch with their grandiose notions of a single-payer system as part of a government takeover of healthcare. Just a few Democrats could quietly join with Republicans to provide vouchers for the uninsured and make a few other relatively modest fixes, plus keep parts of the law that people like, and take credit for turning healthcare in America into a market-driven success instead of a government-managed failure. And while they do it, most Democrats could continue to demagogue on the issue from the safety of their minority position in Congress.

One of the smartest long-term Republican plans to replace Obamacare is from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a former physician. His plan would allow states to “opt out of Obamacare mandates and instead receive tax credits for health savings accounts,” relying on incentives for individuals to buy health insurance coverage. ‎His Patient Freedom Act is already backed by a number of Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and is a solid conservative plan in the event that the court rules against the Obama administration later this month.

The bottom line is that Republicans need to have a plan in place, or Democrats will do something to fill the void. Of course, if the president gets his way, the court will rule in his favor and this will be a moot point for the time being. But Obamacare deficiencies will continue to grow and Democrats will continue to face the dissatisfaction of a program that really hasn’t fixed anything — and has actually made things worse. Oddly enough, the Supreme Court would be doing Democrats a favor if they put a stake through the heart of this failed law.