The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers

Sen. Ted Cruz’s Obamacare hearing in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Thursday afternoon began rather bizarrely.

To his right sat two Democrats: Sens. Christopher Coons, the ranking member of the oversight subcommittee, and Richard Blumenthal.

Directly in front of Cruz was an empty row of seats, vacant because witnesses from the Obama administration who were asked to fill them didn’t show up. Beyond that was an audience filling almost every seat in the room, drawn by the hearing’s subject: the writing of the Obamacare subsidy rule, a topic that is also in a roundabout way currently under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The Treasury Department had told Cruz last week that it wouldn’t be sending any witnesses, so the Texas Republican wasn’t surprised. The empty table was theater, and Cruz took advantage of the opportunity, railing against the Affordable Care Act and the administration for not sending the requested Treasury officials, a snub which he called “the height of arrogance.”

“It’s a symbol for how little regard the Obama administration has for the American people,” Cruz said. “By their absence, I take it the administration is saying they are not subject to oversight.”

The list continued to grow of preventive services that people are entitled to receive without paying anything out of pocket.

In 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended two new services and tweaked a handful of others that had previously been recommended. Under the health law, preventive care that receives an “A” or “B” recommendation by the nonpartisan group of medical experts must be covered by health plans without charging consumers. Only grandfathered plans are exempt from the requirement.

Health Care Service Corp., the largest not-for-profit health insurer in the country, suffered large losses in 2014, the first year that Americans could buy individual coverage through the public exchanges.

HCSC recorded a $281.9 million loss in 2014, compared with a $684.3 million surplus in 2013—a swing of almost $1 billion.

A group of House Republicans unveiled a 192-page health care plan that fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with “patient-centered reforms” and “free-market solutions.”

Lawmakers released the plan Thursday as the GOP-led Congress prepares to attack the Affordable Care Act. Both houses of Congress have already signaled their intentions to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority vote using the reconciliation process—just as the law was passed in 2010.

The new GOP plan, American Health Care Reform Act, was written by Reps. Phil Roe of Tennessee and Austin Scott of Georgia. It has the backing of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus made up of nearly 170 members of the House of Representatives.

New York City’s unionized municipal employees and retirees enjoy some of the most expansive—and expensive—health-insurance benefits in the country. But in 2018, Obamacare’s tax on such generous plans will finally kick in, and public-sector union plans will be the first hit by the so-called Cadillac Tax. How much the penalty will amount to remains unknown, but one thing’s for sure: New Yorkers will wind up footing the bill.

A group of House conservatives on Thursday unveiled the latest version of their ObamaCare replacement plan — intentionally steering clear of a contentious court decision that could throw the law into flux.

The repackaged plan from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal ObamaCare while creating new tax deductions and incentives for people to use health savings accounts.

It does not address Congress’s biggest debate over ObamaCare this year: how Republicans should respond to the looming case, King v. Burwell, if justices decide to strike down subsidies for 6.3 million people.

Millions of Americans could lose Obamacare subsidies under a Supreme Court ruling this month, but many in the GOP don’t need their votes anyway.

That’s a major political calculus for Tea Party Republicans, who are likely to resist any efforts to extend the subsidies, even temporarily. They’re much more worried about angering their base by appearing to concede to Obamacare than whether a handful of constituents lose their subsidies.

If the Supreme Court later this month strikes down Obamacare subsidies in states with federal insurance exchanges, the narrative is simple: The health care law could be fatally crippled and marketplaces will fall into 34 simultaneous death spirals.

But what if Obamacare’s conservative challengers lose King v. Burwell?

If that question seems less sexy in a policy sense, that’s because it is. Essentially, if the Court decides the federal government is on the right side of the law, nothing happens; business continues as usual in all 50 states’ Obamacare exchanges. People keep their insurance as is.

But politically, an Obama administration win would mean volumes.

Washington has made a hash of health care. But that doesn’t mean that government should abandon the project of reforming our medical system. Those reforms are best carried out by the states. The federal government should provide states the resources and the opportunity to replace Obamacare with something better, something that is fair both to Julie and to those who are paying her medical bills.

The health law was designed to cover the poorest people by expanding Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people. But the Supreme Court made that optional. The result in states that didn’t expand Medicaid is a gap, where some people make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for insurance subsidies.