Today, in a 2-1 split decision, the Republican judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals embraced a controversial interpretation of the ACA that believes all subsidies issued through the federal marketplace are illegal. The decision is expected to be overturned.
The ruling depended on a narrow reading of the statute to conclude that subsidies are only legal for state exchanges, “Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation.”
The only way that this ruling makes any sense at all is if one ignored the legislative intent of Congress when the law was drafted.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during his daily briefing, “While this ruling is interesting to legal theorists, it has no practical impact” on individuals’ ability to currently receive tax credits for their health care. You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand Congress intended” for qualified individuals to receive tax credits regardless of who was administering the exchange.
Two courts had previously ruled in favor of the administration. This is the first ruling that has gone against the ACA.
The likely outcome here was described by Ron Pollack of Families USA:
It is most likely that today’s split decision, which would take away premium subsidies for almost five million low- and moderate-income people, will never go into effect.
It will inevitably be placed on hold pending further proceedings; will probably be reheard by all of the 11-member active D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals members, who predictably will reverse it; and runs contrary to an expected ruling on a similar case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Today’s decision represents the high-water mark for Affordable Care Act opponents, but the water will recede very quickly.
The Republican victory today was fairly meaningless. It is extremely unlikely that it will hold up on appeal, and it is questionable as to whether or not that the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case. Republicans are celebrating something that in the big picture will not change anything.
Ironically, this “victory” will end up politically backfiring on the GOP. Over 18 million people have health insurance thanks to the ACA. Republicans are now arguing that those people should lose the subsidies that help cover the cost of their insurance. Democrats can argue that Republicans are trying to raise the cost of health insurance.
Republicans want to make the 2014 election about Obamacare, but thanks to this ruling, Democrats will be forcing them into a discussion that they don’t want to have. The Republican Party continues to rejoice over the prospect of Americans being denied affordable healthcare. This is why the GOP is will pay at the ballot box in November
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association