National Voices: Refusing a rewrite
by The Washington Examiner
July 24, 2014 08:51 PM | 1661 views | 4 4 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was a long-awaited ruling, and it was a doozy. A three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court for the District of Columbia decided the Halbig case Tuesday, ruling that under President Obama’s signature legislative achievement only health insurance exchanges “established by the State” can award subsidies to consumers for purchasing health insurance and penalize the employers of those who receive the subsidies. The federal exchange, which is being used in 36 states, can do neither. That’s the clear meaning of the Affordable Care Act, according to the panel majority.

The Supreme Court will likely have to settle this issue next year because another appeals court has ruled the opposite. But if Halbig is upheld and nothing else changes, Americans will get an even worse version of Obamacare — one that causes enormous upward pressure on insurance premiums but without subsidies to offset the pain.

The answer is for Congress and Obama to start over and pass reasonable health insurance reforms that reduce prices instead of causing them to skyrocket. Halbig should remind Americans of how a measure with such grave flaws became law. A hyper-partisan Democratic president and Congress passed the measure with little concern for dissenting opinions or even a basic understanding of what the bill would do. Rather than seek consensus or honor public opinion, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rammed his version of the bill through the Senate on Christmas Eve 2009 by greasing the skids with a few soft-bribe earmarks for wavering Democrats.

As a result, the bill contained not only unintended consequences, but also unintended policies, some based on crude drafting errors. When voters in Massachusetts unexpectedly revoked the Democrats’ 60-vote super-majority in January 2010, they had no choice but to ram the same flawed Senate bill (which few of them had read anyway) back through the House of Representatives without changing its text.

As for the particular issue in Halbig, Senate Democratic lawmakers had at one point considered using Obamacare subsidies as an explicit incentive to nudge states to establish their own exchanges. The court did not make its decision based on this. It still undercuts the president’s argument that the law’s plain text — which distinguishes between state and federal exchanges — should be superseded by different intentions imputed to Congress after the fact.

As has occurred many times during Obamacare’s implementation, Obama pretends the law says something it doesn’t say. In Halbig, he found a court unwilling to play along. As the majority opinion noted, “within constitutional limits, Congress is supreme in matters of policy. ... (O)ur duty when interpreting a statute is to ascertain the meaning of the words of the statute duly enacted through the formal legislative process.” The court refused to rewrite or “re-construe” Obamacare in order to save it.

Rather than risk a final Halbig ruling that creates administrative chaos next year, Congress and Obama should go back to the drawing board, then return with a new health care reform law produced through honest debate and compromise. Like they should have done in 2010.

Comments
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Rhett Writer
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July 25, 2014
It as absolutely amazing that the liberal loonies still cling to the oft debunked lie that the GOP has not passed a health care reform act. It, along with almost 40 other bills including some jobs bills are still sitting in Harry Reid's bottom deck drawer and they will probably remain there as long the American peoplea llow this nitwit to continue to have his own way. The truth is that he the rest of the Obama Kool-Aid drinkers are AFRAID to have the citizenry find out just how big the lie is that Reublicans are do-nothing obstructionists.
anonymous
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July 26, 2014
@Rhett Writer Remember when the Republican mantra was "repeal and replace", now it is simply "repeal" because they have no plan. If there is one please us know what it is. Of the almost 40 bills (actually 28) 18 of these job bills either reduce or eliminate government regulation in nearly business sector, especially of energy and pollution. Six gives more tax breaks to the same big businesses that are sitting on record profits and not hiring people now. One is an anti-union bill. In the Republican mind, anti-regulation and tax lowering bills are job bills. The tired old canard Republicans use about alleged jobs bills they have passed that the "Democrat Senate" refuses to act upon is a complete lie.
just saying
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July 25, 2014
Great News!! Millions of people will lose their health insurance because two partisan Republican judges on the DC court are playing politics, what's new. "A new health care law based on honest debate and compromise", what parallel universe do you live in? With a dysfunctional Congress waiting for a Republican health care plan is like waiting for Godot only more pointless.
Rjsnh
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July 25, 2014


What your usual right wing rant fails to acknowledge is "it takes two to tango" and as long as the Republican Party of NO continues to practice obstructionist politics,as it was also doing during the passage of ACA, we have to accept what progress we can muster. The health care law is not perfect, to be sure, but it is far better than any effort at universal coverage YET offered by the GOP.
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