Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration bet that they could force the states to do their will. When they lost their bet, the administration ignored the Constitution and ordered the spending of monies that Congress never authorized.This was lawless behavior, and reckless as well. It promised to individuals acting in reliance on government regulations money that was subject to being clawed back if a court applied the statute as written.The alternative was, to be sure, politically unpalatable. The administration could have gone back to Congress and asked it to authorize subsidies in states with federal exchanges. House Republicans, now in the majority, would have demanded other changes in the law.So today the strongest argument for upholding the administration’s reckless regulation is that people might be hurt if the law is enforced as written. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says Congress meant to give money to lots of people — so who cares what the law actually says?
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—a tribunal second only to the Supreme Court—ruled on Tuesday that the Obama administration broke the law. The panel found that President Obama spent billions of taxpayer dollars he had no authority to spend, and subjected millions of employers and individuals to taxes he had no authority to impose.
The D.C. court made the right call, based on a strict reading of the law. But the probability that this ruling leads to the collapse of Obamacare is somewhere between zero and zero. That is to say, zero.
In Sebelius two years ago, the position of judicial restraint may have militated in favor of upholding Obamacare despite its many constitutional defects. But here, Roberts need not exercise the awesome power of judicial review — the position of restraint now simply requires the law to go forward as written. This case will give the Chief Justice the opportunity to atone for his judicial sin of two years ago. Not many judges have the chance to make up for the mistakes of the past. Let’s hope he takes advantage of the opportunity.
A second federal court ruled Tuesday on the legality of Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies — and this one found, unlike the D.C. Circuit Court ruling hours earlier, that the subsidies are legal.The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday afternoon that Obamacare subsidies could be offered through federally-run insurance marketplaces.
“It is…clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act’s primary goals and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill,” the Fourth Circuit Court ruled.You can read the Fourth Circuit decision here. We’ll have more coverage soon.
Obama’s Law Professor: ‘I Wouldn’t Bet’ on Obamacare Surviving Next Legal Challenge | National Review OnlineJuly 22, 2014
President Obama’s old Harvard Law professor, Laurence Tribe, said that he “wouldn’t bet the family farm” on Obamacare’s surviving the legal challenges to an IRS rule about who is eligible for subsidies that are currently working their way through the federal courts.“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Tribe told the Fiscal Times. “But I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.”The law’s latest legal problem is that, as written, people who enroll in Obamacare through the federal exchange aren’t eligible for subsidies. The text of the law only provides subsidies for people enrolled through “an Exchange established by the State,” according to the text of the Affordable Care Act. Only 16 states decided to establish the exchanges.
In a major setback for the Affordable Care Act, the D.C. Circuit just released a fractured opinion invalidating the IRS’s rule extending tax credits to federally facilitated exchanges.The case, Halbig v. Sebelius, centers on the portion of the ACA governing the calculation of tax credits. The statute specifies that tax credits are available to most people who purchase a health plan “through an Exchange established by the State under 1311.” See my earlier posts for a more detailed recap. About two-thirds of the states, however, declined to establish exchanges. In those states, the federal government stepped in and established the exchanges on the states’ behalf.In today’s opinion, the D.C. Circuit held that a federally facilitated exchange isn’t “established by the State under 1311.” As a result, the IRS can’t offer tax credits to those who purchase plans on such exchanges.
Halbig v. Burwell Would Free More Than 57 Million Americans From The ACA’s Individual & Employer MandatesJuly 21, 2014
Recent media coverage of Halbig, driven by one-sided blog posts from the consultant group Avalere Health and the left-leaning Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has misrepresented the impact of a potential ruling for the plaintiffs by ignoring three crucial facts: 1 a victory for the Halbig plaintiffs would increase no one’s premiums, 2 if federal-Exchange enrollees lose subsidies, it is because those subsidies are, and always were, illegal, and 3 the winners under such a ruling would outnumber the losers by more than ten to one.
Beyond the Courthouse Countdown for Federal Health Exchanges | e21 – Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyJuly 14, 2014
Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute recently recapped the dismal track record of the legal seers who have been most consistently disdainful of court challenges to the ACA. But for today’s discussion, let us focus on three future issues that might arise in the wake of a ruling in federal appellate court against the IRS rule and the federal exchange tax credits:
1 Would the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals quickly overturn any such ruling through en banc review by its entire roster of active judges?
2 When and how would any ruling against the federal exchanges be enforced?
3 More broadly, what might happen next in the political arena?
A two-page federal form has provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations.The form allows some religious organizations to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, which many insurers and group health plans are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act and related rules.
The opt-out sounds like a way to accommodate religious beliefs. But many religious employers like Wheaton College and the Little Sisters of the Poor are unwilling to sign the form. By signing it, they say, they would authorize their insurers or plan administrators to pay for contraceptives, including some that they believe may cause abortion.
Fights over the form are playing out in dozens of courtrooms around the country. In a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that family-owned for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores were not required to provide insurance coverage of contraceptives to employees if the companies objected on religious grounds. The Senate planned to take up legislation to reverse that decision this week.