As you may have heard, congressional Republicans have embarked once again on their six-year mission to eventually one day get around to coming up with their own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, they're also keeping a hopeful eye on the Supreme Court, where a looming court case, King v. Burwell, could threaten the existence of critical health insurance subsidies.
But what if the Obama administration has a secret plan to thwart these efforts? A pair of Republican legislators have recently suggested that a conspiracy is afoot. Or rather, two conspiracies are both afoot, simultaneously, each of which seems to contradict the other. Maybe just pick one, guys?
Over at The Hill, Sarah Ferris reports on how a House subcommittee chairman is hot on the trail of a secret Department of Health and Human Services plan to rescue the law in the event that the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell:
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, says federal officials are hiding a roughly 100-page document on the looming court case. The case, King v. Burwell, could cut off ObamaCare subsidies in three-quarters of states and potentially collapse the national marketplace.
Pitts confronted the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the plan, which he says is being circulated among senior officials, for the first time on Wednesday.
"HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said she does not know of a planning document," Ferris reported. But perhaps there is an explanation! According to HuffPost's Sam Stein, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was discussing the Affordable Care Act at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Thursday when he pointed to an even more nefarious scheme:
Sen. Barrasso: Ocare was "designed to fail so that they could get to the single payer system that the president has supported all along."
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) February 26, 2015
So what are the people at the Department of Health and Human Services playing at here? Do they have a secret plan to save the Affordable Care Act, or are they rubbing their palms together, hoping that the Supreme Court kills the law so they can spring their single-payer trap?
Can this contradiction be squared? Perhaps. Maybe this was Obama's plan, all along:
1. Pass a law called the Affordable Care Act, after a long, grueling, and political-capital absorbing legislative battle.
2. Bury some ambiguous language in one section of the bill governing the subsidies to state exchanges set up by the federal government.
3. Sit back and wait for the law's opponents to find that instance of ambiguous language and bring a lawsuit alleging that members of Congress always intended the law to do something they never actually intended it to do.
4. Hope that the Supreme Court will ignore multiple past instances in which they've had to make similar interpretative calls and rule in favor of the opposition, effectively gutting the subsidies and stripping beneficiaries of the means to "afford" this "care act."
5. Then there is this whole middle part I haven't quite figured out yet. Maybe it's what's in the secret 100-page HHS document.
6. EVERYONE GETS SINGLE-PAYER, SOMEHOW!
It's the perfect plan. The conspiracy goes all the way to the bottom and then back to the top of the slide where it stops and turns and goes for a ride till it gets to the bottom and it does it again.
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