Supreme Court saved Obamacare, but there’s work to be done


The following editorial was written by Bloomberg View editors on Thursday, June 25:

The U.S. Supreme Court rescued Obamacare from a conservative attack for the second time in three years on Thursday, prompting Justice Antonin Scalia to rename the law “ScotusCare.” He was just being puckish, as he often is in dissent, but he has a point: It’s time for opponents of the law to take responsibility for it — and that means working to improve it.

Ruling against the claim that Congress prohibited federal subsidies for people buying health insurance in states that haven’t established their own exchanges, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

The case joins a long line of defeated arguments against the law: The so-called individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional (the court disagreed three years ago). The law will explode the deficit (the Congressional Budget Office reports the opposite is true). It will cause the economy to crash (not so far). It will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket (their growth has slowed). The law will result in fewer employers offering coverage (the opposite has happened). Because of Obamacare, more people will lose coverage than gain it (the opposite, again). Finally, they argued that people will hate their Obamacare plans (most like them).

This game was always pretty silly, and now it’s all but pointless. Rather than continue to search for ways to convince voters or the courts that Obamacare is fundamentally flawed or structurally deficient, members of Congress need to cooperate and address the law’s shortcomings — which are real but surmountable.

That means finding solutions for the millions of Americans who still can’t afford health insurance, but still don’t qualify for federal assistance. It also means putting realistic limits on deductibles, copays and other types of cost-sharing, so people can use the insurance they have.

Making Obamacare work better also means accelerating Medicare’s payment reform experiments, and applying the lessons of those experiments to the rest of the health-care system. Costs remain too high. Health-care reform remains a work in progress. The energy that’s gone into undermining the Affordable Care Act must now be turned toward an effort to improve it.

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