In a potentially crippling blow to Obamacare, a federal appeals court panel declared Tuesday that government subsidies worth billions of dollars that helped 4.7 million people buy insurance on HealthCare.gov are illegal.
The 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia—not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov. The ruling relied on a close reading of the Affordable Care Act.
“Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available in the Exchanges established by states,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph in his majority opinion in the case known as Halbig v. Burwell, where he was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith.
“We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up their own Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.”
In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards, who called the case a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” Obamacare, wrote that the judgment of the majority “portends disastrous consequences.”
Indeed, the 72-page decision threatens to unleash a cascade of effects that could seriously compromise Obamacare’s goals of compelling people to get health insurance, and helping them afford it.
White House will ignore:
The Obama administration said it will ask the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse the panel’s decision, which for now does not have the rule of law.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the ruling—for now—”does not have any practical impact” on premium subsidies issued to HealthCare.gov enrollees now.”
“We are confident” that the ruling will be overturned, Earnest said. “We are confident in the legal position we have . . . the Department of Justice will litigate these claims through the federal court system.”
Earnest said “it was obvious” that Congress intended subsidies, or tax credits, to be issued to Obamacare enrollees regardless of what kind of exchange they used to buy insurance.
Our Tin-Pot-Dictator-In-Chief Has Spoken!
Also, Professor Larry Tribe of Harvard has this to say:
President Obama’s old Harvard Law professor, Laurence Tribe, said that he “wouldn’t bet the family farm” on Obamacare’s surviving the legal challenges to an IRS rule about who is eligible for subsidies that are currently working their way through the federal courts.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Tribe told the Fiscal Times. “But I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.”