Interesting. The various lawsuits over different aspects of Obamacare are finally percolating their way to the top of the heap, and two major rulings were made public today:
In that first ruling, a divided three-judge panel in Washington called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums, saying financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.
About 100 miles to the south in Richmond, Virginia, another appeals court panel unanimously came to the opposite conclusion, ruling that the Internal Revenue Service correctly interpreted the will of Congress when it issued regulations allowing health insurance tax credits for consumers in all 50 states.
This is one of the key requirements of Obamacare, and these rulings were addressing the question of whether or not people who purchased their health care plans through healthcare.gov (the federal exchange) and got a subsidy were legally allowed to do so. The first ruling says they were not, the second ruling says they were.
What’s at stake with this ruling? Mostly, it’s the subsidies. Obamacare is phenomenally expensive, and if you can find a plan you like (which most people can’t) it is almost certain to cost far more than your previous plan. I’ll post some more concrete numbers soon to back up that statement, but the reality is that the cost increases are staggering. So, in order to make the Affordable Care Act something resembling affordable there must be subsidies for people buying the plans. Since the federal government runs the exchanges in 36 states, and since essentially everyone who has purchased a plan has been eligible for subsidies (again, because essentially every plan is far more expensive), that means well over half of the people who have purchased new Obamacare plans are suddenly blocked from receiving those subsidies. Thus:
For those federal exchange consumers, it would result in an average premium increase of 76 percent. Customers now pay $82 on average on total monthly premiums averaging $346. The federal subsidy of $264 a month makes up the rest of the premium.
Just a wee bit of difference, huh?
Regarding the first ruling in particular, the next step will be to have the full en banc court (all 11 judges) examine the issue and make another ruling. The Obama administration feels pretty good about that since seven of those judges were appointed by Democrat presidents, and if history is any guide we can be virtually assured that they will vote in favor of Obama no matter what the law actually says. Both cases are likely to end up at the Supreme Court, which is what normally happens when lower courts rule differently on the same question. And, of course, the Supreme Court is where John Roberts appears to once again be the swing vote; will he find another mythical “tax” excuse to allow Obamacare like he did previously, or will he actually look at the law as written and reject it accordingly? Only time will tell.
Some other things should be noted here. First, the media seems pretty well panicked that Obama’s signature piece of legislation just got whacked by one of these federal courts. They’re not concerned with people who have just been told their health care is invalidated, they’re not concerned with the actual verbiage of the law (we’ll come to that in a moment), nothing. Just how it affects Obama. Can we say in the tank…?
The likely legal argument for going ahead with this is that Congress meant the subsidies should apply for anyone whether they got their plans through a state exchange or the federal one. They’ll say, “Oh, come on, everyone knows that’s what they meant! Just let it slide.” That, of course, is the worst possible scenario for the concept of the rule of law. It is not up to the courts (according to the Constitution) to decide what Congress meant when it passed a law. It is up to the courts to rule on what the law actually says. Even if one were inclined to agree with the Congress-meant-to-do-it argument, there’s always this gem from the then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
So…if the top Democrat in the House didn’t even know what was in the bill, can any legitimate argument be made on behalf of what Congress “meant” on the question of subsidies? It stretches belief.
While we’re stretching belief, how about the natural assumption that all judges appointed by Democrat presidents will automatically vote to give the current Democrat president whatever outcome he wants? How’s that for maintaining the rule of law?! This is the danger of appointing activist judges who work more based on their own political agenda than on a proper reading of the actual law and Constitution. When we lose the rule of law being applied fairly and equally to all Americans, what else is left? This is extremely concerning.
The final thing I find extremely disturbing is the fact that the Obama administration appears perfectly content to ignore the ruling it doesn’t like no matter what:
The Obama administration will continue handing out Obamacare subsidies to federal exchange customers despite a federal court’s ruling Tuesday that the subsidies are illegal.
A D.C. Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday morning that customers in the 36 states that didn’t establish their own exchange and use HealthCare.gov instead cannot be given premium tax credits, according to the text of the Affordable Care Act itself.
But the White House said in response that it will continue handing out the billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that while the case continues to be battled out in the courts, the administration will continue to dole out billions in tax credits to federally-run exchange customers.
This is just the latest in a lengthy string of legally questionable — not really, they’ve actually been outright illegal — acts on the part of the Obama administration. They’ve actually become known for doing whatever they want regardless of what any law happens to say about their actions. So, while this is not at all surprising, it should churn the gut of any patriotic American citizen. Again, if the rule of law does not apply to any administration, no matter the party affiliation, then what good is it? What protections are there for American citizens of the party that isn’t in power at any given moment? There are none. What checks and balances are there on any action by any administration? There are none. What assurances are there that the nation will not simply become a toy car being driven about by the whims of whoever holds the steering wheel at the moment (and who gets run over by that car)? There are none.
This is what’s at stake. I hope and pray that Americans will rise up to overcome this latest challenge, putting immense pressure on their elected representatives — who, by the way, have done an atrocious job of keeping this power-mad president in check on each and every one of these illegal actions — to finally put a stop to Obama’s monarchical moves. Above all, we need to get people out to the polls this November to turn out every Democrat and Republican who has stood idly by as these things have warped our nation to the breaking point.
There’s my two cents.