The Republican party has finally gotten exactly what they have been hoping for over the last five years: a favorable judicial ruling against the Affordable Care Act. But is Obamacare really in danger, or is this just another election year political ploy?
“House Republicans won Round 2 in a potentially historic lawsuit Thursday when a federal judge declared the Obama administration was unconstitutionally spending money to subsidize health insurers without obtaining an appropriation from Congress,” reports the LA Times. “Last year, US District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer broke new ground by ruling the GOP-controlled House of Representatives had legal standing to sue the president over how he was enforcing his signature healthcare law. On Thursday, she ruled the administration is violating a provision of the law by paying promised reimbursements to health insurers who provide coverage at reduced costs to low-income Americans.”
If the news sounds alarming and groundbreaking, well, it really isn’t. Even Collyer’s own decision has already been put on hold due to the likelihood that it will be overturned.
“At issue is the ‘cost sharing’ provision in the law that requires insurance companies offering health plans through the law to reduce out-of-pocket costs for policy holders who qualify. The government offsets the added costs to insurance companies by reimbursing them,” explains CNN.com. “But lawyers for the House argued that Congress did not properly approve the money for those reimbursements. US District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, sided with the challengers but said that she would stay her ruling pending appeal. ‘Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one,’ she wrote.”
Based on the millions who are now covered who went uninsured before, or have better coverage, or more affordable plans thanks to Obamacare, it would seem like Congressional Republicans would want to tiptoe softly around being the party to block Americans from healthcare.
But it is an election year, and House Republicans especially have extremely gerrymandered, extremely far right districts at home to answer to, which means they will be pursuing this with every last breath. After all, it doesn’t just continue their war on Obamacare, it also brings up their favorite other anti-Obama talking-point: his use of executive orders. It’s a twofer that’s just too tempting to ignore while revving up for November 2016.
Legal experts worry about Collyer’s decision that Congress has standing to even bring up a lawsuit against the President, declaring it sets a precedent that could open the door for all disagreements among government branches to be litigated rather than addressed through the constitutional process.
“Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan who frequently comments on ObamaCare cases, wrote in a blog post that he shared the judge’s skepticism of the administration’s arguments on the substance of the case,” reports The Hill. “‘What I don’t share, though, is the district court’s confidence that she could properly hear this case,’ Bagley wrote. ‘Until now, no one has thought that one house of Congress could file a federal lawsuit to hash out an appropriations dispute with the executive branch. This shouldn’t be the first time, even if the administration broke the law.’ He predicted that the court of appeals would have ‘little patience’ for the idea that the House has standing to sue. Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University who supports ObamaCare, likewise noted that if the court of appeals ruled the House has standing it would open the floodgates so that ‘you’re just going to have the courts doing nothing but refereeing disputes between Congress and the administration.'”
The GOP may have a “win” on their battle against Obamacare, but it seems unlikely to be a lasting one. Then again, in an election year, just having a victory to tout on the trail may be all they wanted.