A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Legal Challenges"

Bolstered by Ruling, Republicans Attack Health Law

Robert Pear, NY Times
Thu, 2014-07-24
"WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress resumed their campaign against the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday with new zeal, fired up by a ruling of a federal appeals court panel that said premium subsidies paid to millions of Americans in 36 states were illegal. Republicans pointed to the ruling as evidence of problems in the law that could not easily be solved. “Time and time again,” said Representative Charles Boustany Jr., Republican of Louisiana, “the administration has chosen to ignore the law, and when it does implement the law, it does so incompetently.” Mr. Boustany presided over a hearing of a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Wednesday. An official from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, testified at the hearing that undercover agents had obtained insurance coverage and subsidies using fake documents and fictitious identities."

Halbig Decision Puts Obamacare Back on the Front Burner and Will Give Republicans a Huge Political Headache

Bob Laszewski, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review
Thu, 2014-07-24
"Today's 2-1 decision by the DC Court of Appeals striking down federal premium subsidies, in at least the 27 states that opted for the feds to run their Obamacare insurance exchanges, has the potential to strike a devastating blow to the new health law. The law says that individuals can get subsidies to buy health insurance in the states that set up insurance exchanges. That appears to exclude the states that do not set up exchanges––at least the 27 states that completely opted out of Obamacare.

Confused about the health care rulings?

Tony Pugh, McClatchey News Service
Wed, 2014-07-23
"WASHINGTON -- Contrary rulings Tuesday on a key element of the Affordable Care Act by two separate federal appeals courts raise a variety of questions. Q: What happened? A: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided 2-1 that tax subsidies available to help people pay for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act can only be used in the 14 states and in D.C., which run their own insurance exchanges without any help from the federal government. But in a unanimous decision on a similar case a short time later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled just the opposite. Q: Who’s eligible for the tax subsidies? A: Individuals and families who earn between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For those who enrolled this year, it includes individuals earning $11,490 to $45,960, and a family of four earning from $23,550 to $94,200. Q: Does the D.C.

Here’s What Obamacare’s Authors said They Actually Meant

Emily Badger, Washington Post
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The two contradictory appeals court decisions that cast the future of Obamacare into uncertainty Tuesday morning largely center on a question of intent: When the Affordable Care Act was conceived and drafted, did its creators mean to withhold health care subsidies from people living in states that refused to set up their own exchanges?. This latest legal challenge focuses on four words in the mammoth law authorizing tax credits for individuals who buy insurance through exchanges "established by the States." Thiry-six states declined to set up their own exchanges — far more than the law's backers anticipated — and in those states, consumers have been shopping for health care on exchanges run instead by the federal government. Now the D.C.

Appeals Courts Split On Legality Of Subsidies For Affordable Care Act

Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News
Tue, 2014-07-22
"Two U.S. Appeals Courts Tuesday reached opposite conclusions about the legality of subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, a key part of the law that brings down the cost of coverage for millions of Americans. In Washington, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. That 2-1 ruling in Halbig v. Burwell could put at risk the millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where these online insurance marketplaces are run by the federal government. Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion, said they concluded "that the ACA unambiguously restricts" the subsidies to "Exchanges 'established by the state.' " But within hours, a unanimous three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., ruled exactly the other way in King v.

No, the Halbig case isn't going to destroy Obamacare

Ezra Klein, Vox
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The Halbig case could destroy Obamacare . But it won't. The Supreme Court simply isn't going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar. As Adrianna McIntyre explains, the Halbig case holds that Obamacare's subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs (or partly runs) the exchange. The plaintiffs rely on an unclearly worded sentence in the law to argue that Congress never intended to provide subsidies in federally-run exchanges and so the subsidies that are currently being provided in those 36 states are illegal and need to stop immediately. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can't afford it This is plainly ridiculous. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can't afford it.

After Health Law Rulings, Here Are Possible Next Steps

"Margot Sanger-Katz, NY Times
Tue, 2014-07-22
"We now have two federal appeals courts that have issued conflicting rulings on a major provision of the Affordable Care Act. Those decisions are not the final word on whether residents of some states will be able to continue receiving financial assistance to buy health insurance. Here are some possible next steps:"

Court Upholds the Rule of Law

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the rule of law in its decision that the health law does not allow tax subsidies to be distributed through the federal government’s health insurance exchange. The Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service issued regulations in 2012 authorizing the flow of funds after two-thirds of the states opted not to create their own exchanges, thereby defaulting to the federal exchange. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that the law plainly states that tax credits to subsidize health insurance are to be available only through an “Exchange established by the State.” Shortly after the DC Circuit decision was announced, the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a separate case that the law’s language does allow the subsidies to be distributed through the federal exchanges. This sets up a very likely Supreme Court challenge."

Judge Tosses Wisconsin Senator's Health Care Suit

M.L. Johnson, Associated Press
Tue, 2014-07-22
"MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A federal judge on Monday dismissed a U.S. senator's lawsuit challenging a requirement that congressional members and their staffs to obtain government-subsidized health insurance through small business exchanges, saying the senator had no grounds to sue. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, filed the lawsuit in January after the Office of Personnel Management decided months earlier that lawmakers and their staffs should continue to receive health care benefits covering about 75 percent of their premium costs after leaving the health insurance program for federal workers. Johnson said the decision would make him decide which staff members must buy insurance through an exchange, potentially creating conflict in his office. He also said it forced him to participate in a program that he believed was illegal and that it could make voters view him negatively because his staff received health insurance subsidies the general public did not. But U.S.

BREAKING: D.C. Appeals Court Overturns Subsidies For Federal Exchange

Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post
Tue, 2014-07-22
"A federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states. The ruling, if upheld, could potentially be more damaging to the law than last month’s Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out. The government could request an “en banc” hearing, putting the case before the entire appeals court, and the question ultimately may end up at the Supreme Court.

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