Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Bad political philosophy can kill you

Andrew Koppelman

Political philosophy sounds abstract and nerdy, but it is inescapable.  If you have any political opinions, then you have a philosophy and are probably acting in accordance with it.  Administrative regulations are even more boring.  Recent developments in the administration of Obamacare – are you bored yet? – show how much it matters.  The prevalence of one philosophy over another, within the federal bureaucracy, makes a huge difference to millions.

Obamacare includes subsidies for low-income workers who have employer-provided health insurance.  The subsidies become available if their premiums exceed 9.6% of their income.  But the IRS interpreted that threshold to be based on the cost of self-only coverage, even if an employee has dependents whose coverage costs much more.

 A Minnesota woman named Allie Krueger, for example, lost her job and found herself dependent on her husband’s insurance.  They badly needed the coverage because she was pregnant with twins, one of whom had a condition that would require surgery.  They ended up paying a quarter of their income for the insurance, draining their savings.  This gap in the statute, which affects more than five million people, became known as the “family glitch.”

This is the kind of technical problem that, in a normal Congress, would routinely be repaired by legislation.  But Republicans are unwilling to do anything that makes Obamacare work better.  Part of the explanation is pure political gamesmanship: as their initial opposition to the law showed, they are willing to leave massive national problems unsolved for the sake of short-term political gain.  The deeper reason, as I explained in my book on the first constitutional battle over the law, is bad philosophy – a rigid libertarianism that opposes nearly everything government does.

But the Biden administrators figured out a fix.  I explain in my new column at The Hill, here.


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