By Hadley Heath
Thursday a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by the U.S. House of Representatives can proceed. This lawsuit, which I've covered here before, alleges that the executive branch of of government overstepped its authority. Specifically, the claims of the lawsuit include the paying out billions of dollars to health insurance companies without Congressional approval and unilateral delay of ObamaCare's employer mandate.
Importantly, this latest decision from district court Judge Rosemary Collyer is not a ruling in favor of House Republicans. It only allows the case to move forward. In legalese, this is a denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss the case. But the decision did reject one aspect of the case: the employer mandate delay.
Critics of this lawsuit say it's all about politics, and that it's inappropriate for the House to use the court system to push back on ObamaCare in this way. But House leaders defend the suit, saying the executive branch is exceeding its constitutional authority, and arguing that as a coequal branch of government, it makes sense for them to sue.
You can read more about the latest events in this lawsuit in this report from The Hill.
By Hadley Heath
Today the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinions in King v. Burwell, the case about whether the IRS had authority to disperse federal subsidies in states that did not establish their own exchanges.
Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor comprised the majority. The other three Justices (Scalia, Thomas, Alito) dissented. Here's the bottom line: The majority ruled that the IRS, when it sent out subsidies on behalf of consumers in non-establishing states, had the right interpretation of the law. If it is any good news, the Court did NOT say that it was up to the IRS to make this interpretation, but rather the agency's interpretation was the correct one. Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion (link to all opinions here), relied heavily on the purpose of the law, but did not rule that the Chevron deference principle was applicable here.
Here is my statement on today's ruling, from the Bridge to Better Health Care project:
“It’s important to understand that today’s decision was strictly about a technical interpretation regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and had nothing to do with the merits of the law which, more than five years after its implementation, the American people continue to oppose. The public has already suffered too long under this law and its broken promises. Even after no fewer than 50 major changes, many by executive fiat, it remains fundamentally broken and no amount of band-aids or tweaks will make it acceptable to the public.
“Now, we need to move forward to lay the foundations for consensus on a better plan and the political environment toimplement it. We can’t just settle for short-term fixes. Many of the biggest harms are yet to come, with fines doubling next year for individuals who don’t buy mandated insurance and all but the smallest businesses facing penalties and fines from the employer mandate. And that doesn’t count the significant increases topremiums and deductibles if one does comply."
Basically, it is now clearly up to the legislative and executive branches to change health policy. The Supreme Court has shown once again that it will uphold ObamaCare as it is currently being implemented.
By Hadley Heath
I've teamed up with A Bridge to Better Health Care to offer a daily "Healthcare Minute" video. These videos will explain what's happening in health policy and ways we can make it better. If you have a question you'd like to see answered in a healthcare minute, tweet it to @abridgetobetter. Here are the first two videos that explain what King v. Burwell is and what effects it might have. To see future videos, follow @abridgetobetter on Twitter.
By Hadley Heath
The Bridge to Better Health Care project today released two new infographics that illustrate the impact of a ruling for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell:
By Hadley Heath
Top Republican legislators are pondering how to respond should the Supreme Court rule that the federal ObamaCare subsidies are illegal in 37 states (the states that didn't establish their own health insurance exchanges). Remember, these subsidies trigger the individual and employer mandates in those states, meaning this ruling could significantly impact the way ObamaCare works. Here are a few Republican proposals for how to respond in this scenario:
Sen. Ben Sasse was perhaps the first to introduce his plan, "A First Step Out of ObamaCare." Here's what he would do for the transition:
...I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 “Cobra” law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months—so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court’s decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments.
Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn’t enough. Republicans must address this country’s health-care crises—cost and uninsurance—both of which have been exacerbated chiefly by excessive federal meddling.
Reps. Paul Ryan, John Kline, and Fred Upton have also introduced their "Off-Ramp From ObamaCare." Here's an excerpt:
First, make coverage more affordable. Any state that uses our off-ramp would be able to opt out of ObamaCare’s insurance mandates. These coverage requirements are driving up costs, so eliminating them would empower individuals and families to choose from a wider range of plans that fit their personal needs and budgets. Our proposal will also allow participating states to opt out of ObamaCare’s burdensome individual and employer mandates, allowing Americans to purchase the coverage they want…
Second, help people buy coverage. Right now, those who get insurance through their employer get a lot of help from the tax code, while some people who buy insurance on their own, including potentially the millions of Americans the IRS put at risk, get no help at all. So we would offer those in the affected states a tax credit to buy insurance.
And Sen. Ron Johnson has a plan too, which he detailed in his article, "A Make-or-Break ObamaCare Moment." Here's what he suggests:
The first goal of a Republican strategic response must be to prevent President Obama’s cynical use of the coming crisis from working. If Republicans wait, we will have no chance of countering Mr. Obama’s response. We must be ready to come swiftly to the aid of those who will be victimized once again by ObamaCare if the court rules against the administration. Republicans must come together now, agree on a legislative solution, and take that solution to the American public immediately.
Second, our legislation must give America another “bite at the apple”—one last chance to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered, market-based health-care reforms. We must set up the 2016 presidential election as a contest between health-care decisions made by Washington politicians and bureaucrats and reforms that put patients back in charge.
And finally, just today Sen. Bill Cassidy announced that he too would suggest a plan. The Hill reports: "Cassidy’s plan, which would let states opt out of ObamaCare mandates and instead receive tax credits for health savings accounts, would work in tandem with the GOP’s more immediate response in case the court rules against ObamaCare." He will release more details on his plan after Memorial Day.
There are some obvious similarities to all the GOP proposals: Don't allow those who lose subsidies to suffer because of ObamaCare's illegal IRS rule, and provide a way for the nation to move forward to better health care laws in the future.