Froma Harrop - Playtime over for foes of Obamacare

Friends of Obamacare, horrified that the Supreme Court has taken a case that could blow up the federal health insurance exchanges, should recalibrate their dread. While the health reforms were safely humming along, there was little political price for demanding their demise. Thanks to the Supreme Court, now there is.

Years of carpet-bombing assaults on Obamacare have left many Americans thinking that they don't like the Affordable Care Act. But close down the federal exchanges covering 6 million people (so far) in 36 states and they may think otherwise. With a vengeance.

Here are the stakes in King v. Burwell: Should the justices strike down subsidies for coverage in the federal exchanges, only the very sick would hang in. That would be the end of the federal exchanges.

Donald Taylor, a health policy expert at Duke University, likens the Obamacare attackers to a dog chasing a car. "What's the dog going to do if it catches the car?" he said to me.

Subsidies would be untouched in the 12 or 14 state-run exchanges (depends on how you define them), the majority of which are in blue states. Red-state politicians — oddly the biggest foes of a law that in effect transfers tax dollars from high-income liberal states to poor conservatives ones — would have a mess on their hands.

"Some Southern states will be back up to 20 percent uninsured," Taylor said, "and that doesn't sound politically stable."

The solution for Republicans would be a plan B. But they don't have a serious plan B.

Republicans do have a proposal of sorts, composed early last year by three senators — Richard Burr of North Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and now-retired Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. But it was written mainly as a political document with which to hit Obamacare over the head during the 2016 campaign — not as a ready-to-plug-in substitute.

Let's look at the Republican plan that we aren't supposed to examine too closely.

For starters, it would empower private insurers to play a bigger role in the relationship between you and your doctor — encouraging them to shrink the network of doctors and hospitals you may visit. So much for "choice."
It also would cut government subsidies for many working stiffs who earn too much to claim poverty but too little to afford decent private coverage. And it would enable insurers to charge older people far more for their insurance. Obamacare lets them charge three times as much. The Republican plan would let them charge five times as much.

Gone would be the minimal coverage standards. That means the insurers could more easily deny payment for services that Obamacare considers basic. For all these gifts to private insurers, the industry actually prefers Obamacare because its subsidies create many more customers for their products.

The Republican replacement plan (as written so far) contains lots of other controversial elements pretty much ignored because few have taken it seriously. For example, it would tax employer-sponsored health benefits. (Obamacare's "Cadillac tax" on luxurious coverage does some of that, for which it continues to take a beating.)

A group of conservative economists, led by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, has scored the Burr-Hatch-Coburn plan and claims that it would cut deficits by $1 trillion. These are reputable economists, Taylor says, but the text they were working with was "incredibly vague" on where the cap on the taxes would be put.

"The score is a number, and the text on which they did the score was ambiguous," he said. "It shows just how hard this is."

So now Obamacare won't be the only pinata in town.

The Supreme Court will take up King v. Burwell in March. We do live in interesting times.


  • Category: Letters
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We have godlesss Constitution based on Enlightenment ideals

To The Daily Sun,

I see Gene Danforth is at it again with his God-and-government agenda and his right-wing arguments. Mr. Danforth wants you to believe that since the 11th article may not be in all the Arabic versions of the treaty (of Tripoli) it's not in the one the U.S. Senate ratified. This is false. It clearly was in the version voted on. The treaty as voted upon in D.C. contains the phrase "as the Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." That is indisputable because the treaty is in the public record.

The treaty and its signators can be viewed in the U.S. Book of Treaties at An image of the treaty and signators can be viewed at

Whatever you may not like about this treaty, the one voted on by the U.S. Senate said the government of this country is not in any sense based on the Christian religion. This is verified by a godless and secular constitution based on Enlightenment ideals.

James Veverka


  • Category: Letters
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Odds of 100 million heads in a row overwhelmingly positive

To The Daily Sun,

To answer Tony Boutin's question (about odds regarding the creation of the universe), over billions upon billions of chances, as our unimaginably huge universe provides, the odds of 100 million heads in a row is overwhelmingly positive. Do the math.

Johan Andersen


  • Category: Letters
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Increase minimum wage, fix tax policy & encourage unions

To The Daily Sun,

Our democracy is in trouble. As a senior citizen who has lived and worked in the United States my entire life, I took for granted that our way of government in this greatest of nations would always be a democracy. This is not the case.

The shift of power and wealth to the very rich 1 percent, plus large corporations, and away from the middle and lower classes (the 99 percent) will eventually bring about an oligarchy. A country ruled only by the rich and powerful.

It was not always this way. In the 1950s and '60s all Americans had a chance to enjoy the riches of this great nation. A husband could work and the wife could stay home and take care of the children. This is no longer possible. Now both the husband and wife must work just to get by. The wages of the middle class have not kept up with the wealth being generated in this country's businesses and industry.

Several reasons have caused this problem. Tax cuts for the rich and in some cases no taxes for big corporations — therefore, resulting in the 99 percent having to carry the load of government expenses in unfair proportions. The lack of a proper minimum wage has caused this imbalance of wealth. Anybody who works 40 hours per week should be able to handle normal expenses without the aid of the government. Currently, Walmart employee's wages are so low that many employees need food stamps and other government assistance to just get by. Meanwhile, the top executives and the Walmart corporation are making billions of dollars in profits.

Also, the demise of collective bargaining and the deliberate weakening of unions affects the middle class's ability to get a proper distribution of wealth. Some people don't like unions, but in the 1950s and '60s, when one-third of all workers were organized, all American workers benefited by the collective bargaining process with good wages and benefits. One of our nation's largest employers, Walmart, is not unionized. Establishing a union will be very difficult.

Politically, the policies of the Republican party are driving this imbalance. Tax cuts for the rich, preventing a rise in the minimum wage, and the destruction of unions and collective bargaining are undermining our democracy. The 1 percent and large corporations have bought-off government officials. Currently, senators and representatives at the national and state government levels are doing the bidding of the big money interests — leaving the "little people" (you and me) to struggle for survival.

This discrepancy of wealth between the 1 percent and the middle class is now actually worse than it was in 1928 just before the Great Depression.

My advice is remove Republicans and others who promote this negative trend from office, increase the minimum wage, encourage and strengthen the ability of workers to organize into unions, and fix the tax policy so that the rich and big corporations start paying their fair share. The redistribution of wealth or value generated by our industries and businesses must be properly spread over the workforce to bring the entire country up in wealth and prosperity. That is how our democracy will be saved.

Tom Dawson


  • Category: Letters
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In which god do we trust? There are gods all over the place

To The Daily Sun,

Alan Moon throws some darts at James Veverka, then proclaims that no more evidence is needed to prove that we are a nation founded on Christianity by being a master of the obvious that it is stated on the dollar bill (IN GOD WE TRUST).

I know most of the intelligent people reading this realize that "GOD" is not a term exclusively used by Christians. In fact "GODS" are all over the place. Whether it be Judaism, Hindu, Aboriginal, Zoroastrianism or whatever, they all refer to their high deity as "GOD." In fact, there are many pieces of our society that could be pointed at as contradictory to being a nation based on Christian morals. But the fact is even if this were true, it is not the case anymore.

I would bet double the amount of people that go to church on Christmas didn't go to church but still celebrate it without any religious connotations. Every day there are stories of crimes committed by people who call themselves Christians that do not practice (and those that do), and I'm sure that the people who actively participate at their church are in the overall vast minority in this country now. So really, who cares?

We should be talking about ways that we can all get along rather than trying to puff our chests and talk up our faith like it's better than others.

Thomas Lemay


  • Category: Letters
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