A decision by a federal appeals court today strikes a huge blow to Obamacare, which the pro-life movement steadfastly opposed because of its abortion funding and rationing components.
A federal appeals court rejected subsidies paid by the government to millions of new enrollees and the court determined that those federal subsidies can only go to people who sign up to Obamacare via state exchanges and not the federally-run exchange.
Only 16 states and the District of Columbia set up their own exchanges,meaning that the people who signed up for Obamacare on the federal exchange, which is most of the enrollees, won’t have subsidized health care. That, in the opinion of many conservative writers responding to the ruling, could topple Obamacare or a large part of it.
President Barack Obama’s administration is expected to appeal the decision to the full circuit of judges on the court and eventually to the Supreme Court. But if the decision is ultimately upheld, it could be the linchpin that causes the eventual demise of Obamacare.
“If the final result backs the appeals decision, the result would wipe out subsidies for millions and undermine a key component of Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans obtain health coverage,” CNN said in a report on the decision. “The easiest fix — changing the law to specify that it allows subsidies for coverage purchased through the federal government as well as state exchanges — would mean reopening the debate over the 2010 Affordable Care Act that passed with zero Republican support.”
“Republicans now control the House and are expected to make gains in the November election, perhaps also gaining a majority in the Senate,” it added. “That means Obama and Democrats have no chance of getting Congress to approve needed changes in the law despised by the political right.”
Guy Benson, a pro-life writer at TownHall, breaks down the decision further:
A full-blown Obamacare earthquake. The “second highest court in the land’s” judgment may not be final — the administration will almost certainly appeal for an en banc hearing before the full court, and there’s always SCOTUS — but for now, it is the binding decision. What does it mean? George F. Will wrote a column
summarizing the Halbig case and its potential implications earlier this year:
Someone you probably are not familiar with has filed a suit you probably have not heard about concerning a four-word phrase you should know about. The suit could blow to smithereens something everyone has heard altogether too much about, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ACA)…If [the lawsuit] succeeds, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate…Because under the ACA, insurance companies cannot refuse coverage because of an individual’s preexisting condition. Because many people might therefore wait to purchase insurance after they become sick, the ACA requires a mandate to compel people to buy insurance. And because many people cannot afford the insurance that satisfies the ACA’s criteria, the ACA mandate makes it necessary to provide subsidies for those people. The four words that threaten disaster for the ACA say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.
So the IRS, which is charged with enforcing the ACA, has ridden to the rescue of Barack Obama’s pride and joy. Taking time off from writing regulations to restrict the political speech of Obama’s critics, the IRS has said, with its breezy indifference to legality, that subsidies shall also be dispensed to those who purchase insurance through federal exchanges the government has established in those 34 states…Some of the ACA’s myriad defects do reflect its slapdash enactment, which presaged its chaotic implementation. But the four potentially lethal words were carefully considered and express Congress’s intent. Congress made subsidies available only through state exchanges as a means of coercing states into setting up exchanges.
Democrats in Congress passed a law that explicitly limited Obamacare subsidy eligibility to consumers who purchased plans on state-level exchanges. They did so in order to coerce and bribe states into setting up their own marketplaces under the law. (Another attempt at coercion, mandatory Medicaid expansion, has been struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court). Given the controversial law’s unpopularity, a majority of states declined to establish exchanges, forcing the federal government to create the infamous federal version — with Healthcare.gov as its centerpiece. Subsequent New York Times reporting indicated that HHS never expected to have to set up any exchange at all, let alone for 36 states. That’s because they were laboring under the belief that the law’s sticks and carrots would compel every state to implement marketplaces on their own. Many did not, and the plain text of the law clearly states that anyone buying coverage through any system other than a state-based exchange would not be eligible to receive generous taxpayer subsidies, which relieve much of the heavy cost burden for many consumers (even with the subsidies, many enrollees say they’re struggling to pay).
Faced with this predicament, the IRS decided that Congress’ true intent was for all exchange consumers to have a shot at subsidies if they were financially eligible, so it simply decreed it to be so in the form of a regulation that effectively rewrote a major provision the law. Today, the Court ruled that the law says what it says, and that the IRS overstepped. This decision, at least for now, plunges Obamacare into chaos — and furious Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. When you ram through a lengthy, hastily slapped-together, unpopular law without reading it, unintended consequences sometimes arise. And this one’s a biggie. Then again, as Will notes in his piece, a strong case can be made that this passage of the law was very much crafted intentionally, even if today’s fallout was never supposed to happen. Congress debated how to phrase the subsidy eligibility language, and ended up passing the Senate’s version — a move made necessary by the anti-Obamacare election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. A previous House version’s verbiage had been much more encompassing. But it didn’t pass. Obamacare did. If it stands, this ruling not only strips subsidy eligibility from many Americans (which could/will touch off a breathtaking adverse selection death spiral), it liberates tens of millions from the unpopular individual mandate tax.