Remember way back in 2012 when, in a fit of stubborn pique, NC lawmakers refused to establish a statewide insurance marketplace? And then remember last year when they, again, passed a bill to block Medicaid expansion, stating at the time that they were completely unwilling to participate in any piece of Obamacare, no matter how much it would help state residents?
Well, hold on to your hats because our elected officials’ complete intractability on the issue of healthcare could end up punishing our state once again.
In a few short weeks, the Supreme Court will hear opening arguments on King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that alleges Obamacare subsidies are actively harming a small subset of taxpayers. If the suit wins, insurance healthcare subsidies in the 37 states that use the federal insurance marketplace will be cut.
For the average North Carolina marketplace subscriber, this could mean insurance going up by more than $3,320 a year. That’s 182,000 people who might lose their ability to afford health insurance overnight. Let’s add those to the 319,000 North Carolina residents who fall into the Medicaid Gap, and the picture becomes clear: the health and livelihood of our state’s residents is not a legislative priority.
For years the federal government has been figuratively tossing sacks of money down from Washington, incentivizing our state to join the healthcare party. But our state marks them “return to sender.” Why? Because they want to take some kind of misguided stand against a president they don’t support and a program that they don’t understand.
Speaking of misguided, the Burwell case is exactly that. An anti-Obamacare group dug up four Virginia residents who would supposedly only afford insurance if it were subsidized. Without the subsidy they’d fall into the group that would be poor enough that they could forgo insurance without a penalty. But the catch is, two of those four were disqualified from the lawsuit based on changing circumstances. But the Supreme Court only needs to decide one person was harmed by subsidies to determine whether the practice is illegal.
What’s frustrating is that if NC had set up its own health insurance marketplace, this lawsuit wouldn’t be a threat. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina moms, dads, and workers wouldn’t have to be eyeballing their insurance payment, worried it’s about to triple, or even quintuple.
There is no good reason our state needed to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act, even if individual lawmakers didn’t support its creation. Elected officials are charged with doing well by the people who elect them. And in this case, they fall well short.