A couple of weeks ago, state lawmakers in Arizona moved closer to blocking funding for implementing the Affordable Care Act. The whole idea seemed too bizarre to be taken seriously, and the effort barely caused a ripple in national coverage on health care policy.
That’s a shame, because as Sarah Kliff noted yesterday, the ridiculous proposal actually passed this week.
Arizona has passed a bizarre new law in which the state effectively promises that if the Supreme Court destroys its health exchange, it won’t build a new one, no matter how badly Arizonans are hurting.
Even for Republicans, this is an odd one. I’ve heard plenty about states claiming to hate “Obamacare,” but it’s unusual to see a state declare its intention to punish itself, on purpose, for no reason.
If the GOP justices on the Supreme Court side with the far-right in the King v. Burwell case, insurance subsidies will only be available to consumers in states with their own exchange marketplaces. And what if your state doesn’t have an exchange? Then according to the Supreme Court, you and your neighbors wouldn’t be eligible for the benefits anymore.
Of course, states could respond to the ruling by creating these marketplaces, protecting consumers from massive premium increases, and some states have already suggested they’re prepared to do exactly that to prevent families from suffering.
But Arizona this week did the opposite, announcing that, no matter what, they will not create a marketplace for private insurers to compete for Arizonans’ business. State Republicans want to make sure those tax dollars go to other states, not their own, while forcing over 200,000 people in Arizona to lose their subsidies – again, on purpose – so that they’ll struggle to pay for their coverage.
The apparent goal of a policy like this is genuinely hard to understand: lawmakers in Arizona want to deny benefits to their constituents in order to spite an effective federal law, which Republicans don’t like for reasons they can’t explain.
It’s worth noting that this new state law can be reversed later. If the court ruling goes the wrong way, and 200,000 Arizonans demand state action, lawmakers could simply pass a new law overriding this one and protecting families from health care insecurity.
But this week, Arizona’s GOP-led state government declared this won’t happen. Why these officials want insurance subsidies to go to other states but not their own is genuinely hard to understand.