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An Off-Ramp from Obamacare: A Necessity and An Opportunity

March 12, 2015

With oral arguments at the Supreme Court behind us, now the wait begins. In a few months, we’ll learn whether the Court has found—as any fair-minded reading of the law demands— that the Obama administration went beyond its authority by paying out Obamacare subsidies in states that used the federal health care exchange. But instead of simply standing by, Republicans in Congress are stepping up with plans to respond now. 

The chairmen of three House Committees with jurisdiction over health care recently published a Wall Street Journal op-ed where they laid out a possible alternative to Obamacare for the affected states. The stakes are high, and the potential that the subsidies could disappear creates both a need and an opportunity to put in place an off-ramp from Obamacare.

The necessity for an alternative

Though a ruling that strikes the subsidies would blow a giant hole in the law, it would still leave in place many of Obamacare’s most problematic and burdensome mandates and regulations. These rules stifle competition and choice, and they are driving up the cost of coverage. People who lose subsidies would no longer be shielded from the full impact of these costly policies and would face an average premium increase of 256 percent, according to one estimate. And that’s just for the first year. The situation would likely lead to a sicker population of covered individuals in the future and therefore even higher premiums, creating a dangerous cycle where the flaws of Obamacare make coverage harder and harder to afford.

As the three chairmen wrote, “No family should pay for this administration’s overreach.” A ruling against the subsides would create an opening to remove Obamacare, but it wouldn’t finish the job. That’s why people would still need an off-ramp from the costly burdens of Obamacare. 

The opportunity for an alternative

At the same time, a favorable court decision provides an opportunity to move the country toward a patient-centered health care system that lowers costs and empowers individuals and families to shop for the coverage that fits their personal needs and budget. Republicans have a lot of ideas to improve our health care system and make it more patient-centered, but they have been stymied by a president intent on protecting Obamacare at any cost. With a ruling against the subsidies, Republicans could finally show the American people that the key to healthier system is lower costs, choice, and competition. We have better solutions, and there now may be an opportunity to advance them.

The solution

That’s why a House Republican working group has laid out an alternative vision to Obamacare. It includes allowing affected states to opt out of Obamacare’s costly rules and regulations, and to opt into a patient-centered system focused on choice and lower costs. It would not only do away with many of the Washington mandates that are driving up costs, but also go further to put in place commonsense reforms—like shopping across state lines and reining in junk lawsuits—that we know will make coverage more affordable. 

And then it works to level the playing field in the tax code so that people are able to shop on the individual market for the coverage that is right for them. We know that empowered consumers create higher quality, more affordable health care options. As the three chairmen put it, “here’s the bottom line: Under ObamaCare, government controls your choices. Under our proposal, you will. You’ll get to pick a plan that works for you.” 

You can read more about the House’s plan here.