Federal Appeals Court Ruling Against Obamacare subsidies: An Excuse for Another Attack Against the Image of Conservatives?

July 25, 2014

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the federal government may not subsidize health insurance plans bought by people in states that decided not to set up their own marketplaces under the health care law. That is, in 27 states (and seven others that have partnership exchanges) that opted out of setting up exchanges, the court says that it is illegal to provide federal tax credit subsidies for insurance plans in those states.

The new White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, has criticized the ruling, saying, “You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace.”

Earnest is right on one point; you don’t have to have a “fancy law degree” to understand what the law says. The problem is that, while intent does need to be take into consideration for understanding a law, the actual wording still carries most of the weight.

In 26 U.S. Code § 36B -Refundable credit for coverage under a qualified health plan, it says (and pay close attention to subsection A):

(2) Premium assistance amount
The premium assistance amount determined under this subsection with respect to any coverage month is the amount equal to the lesser of—
(A) the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311 [1] of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or
(B) the excess (if any) of—
(i) the adjusted monthly premium for such month for the applicable second lowest cost silver plan with respect to the taxpayer, over
(ii) an amount equal to 1/12 of the product of the applicable percentage and the taxpayer’s household income for the taxable year.

The language is clearly referencing state run exchanges specifically. Earnest wants to assume that the Democrats intended Americans to have access to tax credits, no matter where the exchange was run from, but I see a different intent in their actions. It seems to me that the Democrats tried to be overly clever with their wording in order to force all states to comply and set up those states that opted out to be punished by the law in order to keep them in line. After all, it’s been standard operating procedure for the Democrats, especially during the Obama presidency, to cause a great deal of pain for the average citizen and then blame that pain on the Republicans in order to turn people against the GOP. What better way to do this than to implement a program where everybody is forced to buy into it and if they don’t, they’re punished for not complying. Then, when a state decides to opt out, the citizens are punished and blame is placed squarely on the shoulders of their elected officials (normally Republicans) who chose to stand against something as horrible as Obamacare on behalf of those same citizens.

It’s actually a fairly typical strong arm tactic. Where a criminal might threaten your safely or that of your family, the government is threatening our state elected officials with the possible loss of their voter base. It’s a case of, “Do what I say or else.”

Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote, “At least until states that wish to can set up Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly.” Whether or not Judge Griffith meant it this way or not, the narrative that the left is going to latch onto is clear in this statement. These states must comply with Obamacare or their citizens will be hurt. Further, the liberals can then glue their halos back onto the points of their horns and decry these conservative meanies; they created this wonderful health care system with the sole motivation being to help the American people (right into a pauper’s prison with bars constructed out of entitlements and dependency) and these villains came along to fight against anything our poor, virtuous president does solely because these slavering beasts, who insist on clinging to their guns and religion, can’t stand the thought of a black man in the White House. You’ve heard all this before…it’s like a game of ‘Telephone’ where the message is repeated verbatim every time. It’s almost like the message is being repeated and spread by an army of automatons instead of people…but that’s probably a subject for another article.

So, let me be clear on the conservative point of view on this case, at least for myself and I suspect for the majority of conservatives: Yes; anything that damages and pushes Obamacare closer to repeal is a very good thing, but, no; conservatives are not rejoicing at people being hurt by this court decision, should it stand. The motivation for the right to oppose Obamacare is that it will cause and, in fact already is, causing damage; to companies and employers, to employees, to the rich, but especially to the middle and lower classes. Nothing truly positive can come from something like this that forces people to become consumers of a product, that forces employers to provide services even if those services violate their God given rights and that creates and encourages a system of dependence and discourages excellence and innovation. That is what Obamacare is ultimately about.

No matter how much liberals want to spread the lies that conservatives don’t care about anyone other than corporations and the rich, the truth can’t just be washed away by their loud voices coming from a multitude of directions. There are solid reasons to oppose Obamacare and, because it is a program worthy of being opposed, even the smallest damage caused to it should be counted as a small victory. True conservatives will continue to hold the administration to adhere to the specifics and wording of the law so that people will fully see how horrible it is and that ‘fixing’ and ‘tweaking’ of the passed law are not only not going to make things better, but is illegal. Of course, ultimately, the true victory comes when every vestige of Obamacare is wiped away so that a good system can be built up in its place; one that will encourage economic growth and the desire to excel instead of limiting it and that will protect and help those in serious medical need instead of throwing them to the dogs because they’d be too much of a drain on the system.

It’s true that these legal setbacks, like this decision and the Supreme Court ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision, are affirmations that Obamacare is hurting people and that the Obama administration cannot simply rewrite this bad law as they go to fit their needs or to quiet their critics. There are 6.7 million people, according to the administration, who are getting tax credits to be able to pay their premiums for insurance policies on the exchanges. Yet, they still want to use the word ‘affordable’ in the name of the law. There is nothing affordable about anything that requires that kind of massive financial assistance just to pay premiums. I’ve had different kinds of insurance over my life and I’ve never had to take out a loan or ask the federal government for financial aid to pay my premiums…but maybe I’m just abnormal in today’s America of Obama, Hillary, Reid and Pelosi.

The bigger picture, though, is that Obamacare is simply bad law. One judge on this court, Harry Edwards, in his dissenting opinion wrote, “This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” I submit that the efforts to gut and also to repeal the ACA are not veiled at all, nor should they be. This law has no place in a country like ours and true Americans who understand how horrid this law is should not stop until it has been removed from the books and exists as nothing more than a cautionary tale of what not to do with our health system.

* This current case is far from being resolved, as the Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled hours later that the subsidies were legal and proper, no matter how the exchange was set up. This could lead to yet another case involving Obamacare being brought before the Supreme Court.

Randy Lynch

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