So, did the long-awaited, much-anticipated court ruling(s) on ObamaCare actually decide anything? Not yet.
Some argued that the text of the law clearly permitted subsidies to flow to those who purchased plans on the federal exchange—this was the argument offered by the government in court. Others argued that while the text didn’t technically permit those subsidies, that was clearly the intent of the the law, and any textual omission was surely due to a “drafting error.”
That’s right: a drafting error.
Let’s take a step back to see how plausible that explanation is. There are two types of exchanges: state-established, and federally established. The statutory authority for state-based exchanges comes in section 1311 of Obamacare. The statutory authority for a federal exchange in the event that a state chose not to establish one comes from section 1321(c) of Obamacare. Right off the bat, we have two discrete sections pertaining to two discrete types of health exchange. Was that a “drafting error”?
Then we have the specific construction of section 1321(c), which allows for the creation of a federal exchange. Nowhere does this section say that an exchange created under its authority will have the same treatment as a state-based exchange created under section 1311. At no point does it say that section 1321 plans are equivalent. Why, it’s almost as though the exchanges and the plans offered by them were not intended to receive the same treatment. Was that another “drafting error”?
Most important, we have the sections of the law providing for tax credits to help offset the cost of Obamacare’s health care plans: sections 1401, 1402, 1411, 1412, 1413, 1414, and 1415. And how do those sections establish authority to provide those tax credits? Why, they specifically state ten separate times that tax credits are available to offset the costs of state health exchange plans authorized by section 1311. And how many times are section 1321 federal exchange plans mentioned? Zero. Was that yet another “drafting error”?
The specific phrase “established by the State under section 1311? can be found twice in the tax credit title of Obamacare. The first instances relates to the size and the second to the scope of the tax credit subsidy. How many times is the phrase “established by the Federal government/Secretary under section 1321? found? Zero. Was that also a “drafting error”?
The deliberate creation of a separate section to authorize a separate federal entity is not a drafting error. The repeated and deliberate reference to one section but not another is not a drafting error. The refusal to grant equal authority to two programs authorized by two separate sections is not a drafting error. The decision to specifically reference section X but not section Y in a portion of a law that grants spending or tax authority is not a drafting error.
The clear text of the law repeatedly demonstrates that plans purchased via federal exchanges were never meant to be treated the same as plans purchased by state-based exchanges. Despite its assertions, the IRS was never granted the statutory authority to hand out tax credits related to plans purchased via a federal health exchange.
The law expressly and intentionally omits HealthCare.gov from handing out subsidies—yet the IRS decides that it can.
Obamacare was signed into law in March of 2010. It wasn’t until August of 2011 that the IRS decided to make tax credit subsidies available to plans purchased on federal exchanges. That’s a span of 16 months—an awfully long time to recognize and address a “drafting error.” Furthermore, actual “drafting errors” have to be corrected by new laws, not by executive fiat. Even when they are plainly obvious to everyone who sees them, that 3015 that should’ve been 2015 still has to be amended via a new law: passed by both Houses, and signed by the president. Yet, that’s not what this administration did.
In its May 2012 announcement of its official new rule which suddenly allowed subsidies to flow to federal exchange plans, the IRS never claimed it was a drafting error. It claimed the opposite: that the text clearly endorsed the IRS interpretation.
So why did the IRS wait nearly 16 months to spring this new interpretation on the public? That’s also an easy one. As of August 17, 2011, when its rule was first proposed, only ten states had passed laws establishing their own exchanges. Seventeen had outright rejected the Obamacare exchanges. All told, 40 states had by that point failed to do the administration’s bidding and set up state-based Obamacare exchanges.
Without exchanges in every state, Obamacare would surely fail as a policy matter. And without massive subsidies to offset the costs of Obamacare’s health plans, Obamacare would fail as a political matter. The IRS maneuver was a last-ditch attempt to paper over the law’s serious structural flaws.
Big government at work. Give me a sausage.
According to the findings of an investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office which were presented to Congress on Wednesday, some of those taxpayer-funded subsidies are not merely legally problematic but are also subject to extensive fraud.
The GAO found that 11 of 12 applications for federal assistance while applying for insurance provided through the ACA using “fictitious identities” were accepted.
Who was the nimrod (fictitious nimrod) who didn’t get through? That guy wasn’t trying. Here’s a new slogan for EdselCare: 8.33% pure.