In finding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) constitutional, 5 justices of the Supreme Court literally ignored the statutory language of the law and the wishes of Congress. In fact, Chief Justice Roberts rewrote portions of the Act in order to bring its substance into line with his own politically motivated preferences.
In May, the IRS also ignored the will of Congress as expressed in the ACA. The law specifically states that subsidies and tax credits provided to certain ObamaCare enrollees may be awarded ONLY by “a governmental agency or nonprofit entity [ObamaCare exchange] that is established by a state.”(My emphasis) But this would prevent subsidies being awarded in the 33 states that have refused to build an ObamaCare exchange. Such a setback would effectively ruin the Affordable Care Act.
So the IRS decided to rescue its master’s namesake healthcare plan by presenting ObamaCare enrollees with $800 million worth of subsidies and tax credits even in states that have not built an exchange. After all, defenders of ObamaCare maintain that the whole affair simply represents “…a minor drafting error [in the law] that courts will and should overlook.”
But not everyone agrees that the IRS may legally assume the lawmaking powers of Congress. In 2012, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed an amended suit, claiming that the IRS had no right to pass out subsidies contrary to the will of legislators. And as subsidies are not permitted in states with federally built exchanges, neither are the penalties–or taxes– the law imposes for noncompliance. In short, both the individual and employer mandates must be nullified.
In August, an Oklahoma district court ruled that 3 counts of Pruitt v. Sebelius may go forward. And as these represent the principal arguments of the action, should any of the 3 receive a favorable ruling, the status of ObamaCare exchanges will be placed in significant peril.
On October 22, a federal judge ruled that Halbig v. Sebelius–a suit whose content effectively mirrors that of Pruitt–may proceed. DC District Judge Paul Freidman “…rejected several Justice Department arguments on why the legal challenge should be tossed out of court.”
The existence of two lawsuits demanding the IRS follow the law rather than a political agenda gives opponents of ObamaCare 2 chances of upending the Affordable Care Act. Should an effective split decision occur, the Supreme Court would almost definitely hear the surviving case in its upcoming term.
Some 100 lawsuits filed against one or another facet of the Affordable Care Act are still making their way through the courts. Of the major “Act-ending” actions, Pruitt and Halbig probably represent the best hope of destroying ObamaCare as it now exists. As usual, we can only hope that an honest judge interested in maintaining the rule of law will make the ultimate ruling. If one can be found, ObamaCare’s days may be numbered.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath