Supporters and dissenters are anxiously awaiting a decision this week from the D.C. Circuit Court in Halbig v. Burwell, one of the cases challenging the IRS’s authority to offer subsidies through the federally-established ObamaCare exchanges. – See more here.
Halbig is about the plain language of a statute. When Congress wrote the Affordable Care Act, it created health insurance exchanges. To entice (bribe) people to sign up for health care, the ACA offers taxpayer subsidies to qualifying individuals to reduce their personal cost of insurance.
Congress, however, wrote very plain language about the subsidies. The law very specifically limits paying tax subsidies only on insurance bought through state-based exchanges. Oops.
Thirty-four states refused to set up exchanges. Several state exchanges have since malfunctioned, but that’s a different story.
Since 34 states refused to set up exchanges, the federal government rushed to put them together. They are called Federally Facilitated Marketplaces and are run by the federal government, not states. In a handful of cases, states operate part of the exchange while the feds do most of the heavy lifting.
Here’s the rub: The ACA does not authorize a single dime in premium tax subsidies to be paid on coverage bought on a federal exchange. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
In contradiction to this clear language, Obama’s team went ahead and paid it anyway. Hence, the lawsuit.
If the plaintiffs prevail in the upcoming district court decision, then those millions who have purchased subsidized coverage in federal exchanges will suddenly be stuck with huge, humongous insurance premiums. Oops. As bad as that would be for Obama and his team of social planners, there is a far worse potential outcome awaiting the rest of us.
If the court decides that Congress meant to include the federal exchanges, but just got the words wrong, then the subsidies would continue. This would be a huge loss for those of us who believe in the rule of law, and the constitution.
If a law only says what the president says it says, then the president can say whatever he wants about a law and that’s that. Forget the process of laws, or binding down leaders with laws (the Founding Fathers’ idea).
I’m counting no the federal district court to do the right thing, but keep in mind that Pres. Obama has packed the court with his own appointees. In any case, this lawsuit will end up at the Supreme Court. Let’s hope that the current “conservative majority” stays put long enough to decide it.