Congress Must Help Obamacare Victims the Court Ignored
By Phil Kerpen
The lawyering and the judging is over, and the Supreme Court has ruled that subsidies and mandates that the Obamacare law limited to “an exchange established by the state” also apply to Healthcare-dot-gov. That’s what the Obama administration has claimed since 2011, so there is no disruption of the sort that would have occurred if the government had lost. Democrats won’t roll out the stories of victims who were worried they would lose subsidies. But there were very real victims in the Supreme Court’s King v. Burwell decision. Millions of people who got their hours cut at work because of the employer mandate, which because it is linked to subsidies was at issue in the case, will now continue to suffer. It’s a terrible policy, and Congress needs to repeal it.
In King and related cases, the plaintiffs were individuals and employers subject to mandates only because of the disputed subsidies. The way the employer mandate is written, it applies only to companies with subsidy-eligible employees. No subsidy, no mandate.
A study by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and his colleague Brittany La Couture at the American Action Forum found that 3.3 million Americans now working less than 30 hours a week stood to gain hours if King had prevailed. The study also found that 1.27 million workers would be added to the labor force. Now those millions of Americans remain, thanks to the Supreme Court, victims of the employer mandate. We should not overlook them.
We recently asked members of the nonprofit organization I run, American Commitment, about the impact the employer mandate had on them. We received dozens of heartbreaking stories – many of them from adjunct college instructors, who have been hit especially hard.
Elizabeth Honaker, an English instructor in Sparta, Tenn. with multiple advanced degrees has dedicated her life to teaching. But because of Obamacare’s employer mandate, she can no longer make ends meet.
Honaker said: “In 2013, my supervisor called me in and she said I have some bad news. They told me that Obamacare would forbid me from teaching more than 18 credit hours a year. Otherwise we have to give you healthcare. It just didn’t make any sense.”
She had high hopes for the Supreme Court case, saying “striking down the employer mandate would be a Godsend to me.”
Similarly, Charlie Liebert, an adjunct in Greensboro told us: “I used to teach seven courses. And now I can only teach four as a result of Obamacare. So that’s a 40 percent decrease in my compensation. And I can work more than 30 hours, but Obamacare says I can’t. That’s absurd.”
Obamacare should be fully repealed, but that will be very difficult to accomplish before the next national election. Repealing the employer mandate, on the other hand, could – and should – happen right away.
This need not be a partisan issue. Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. and other union leaders, a core Democratic constituency, famously said Obamacare “will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”
Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is on the record that the mandate should be repealed, and last year the liberal Urban Institute came out swinging with a study called: “Why Not Just Eliminate the Employer Mandate?” Their conclusion: “eliminating the employer mandate would eliminate labor market distortions in the law… and have little effect on coverage.”
The employer mandate is hurting millions of Americans, and helping almost nobody. It is hated by key constituencies of both parties. The Supreme Court left it intact. Congress must not.
Or as Elizabeth Honaker put it: “I just want Congress to come to its senses. Give me back my hours, please.”