Oklahoma Court strikes down Obamacare subsidies again
There's not doubt the Supreme Court is going to have to eventually decide this question of federal subsidies for Obamacare in states that did not set up insurance exchanges. This is the 3rd case to come before a federal court on the matter, and two of them have now ruled the subsidies are illegal.
The United States District Court in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday in Pruitt v. Burwell that the IRS rule extending health insurance tax credits to Obamacare exchange customers in states that chose not to build their own exchange is illegal.
The Obama administration’s rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or other not in accordance with law,” according to federal district Judge Ronald White.
The question comes down to the repeated instruction in the text of the Affordable Care Act that advanced premium tax credits are to go only to customers of exchanges “established by the state.” The plaintiff in this case, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, argues that Congress’ text says customers in Oklahoma, which doesn’t run its own exchange, aren’t eligible for the subsidies.
The decision follows two highly-charged appeals court cases. The Washington, D.C. Circuit Court ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that Obamacare’s tax credits are only applicable to the several state-run exchanges; but hours later, the Fourth Circuit Court ruled that the IRS was within its rights to make the adjustments in its extension of the subsidies. (RELATED: Federal Court Takes Down Obamacare)
But at the Department of Justice’s request, the D.C. Circuit Court agreed to re-hear its case with a full court — which has been packed with three new judges appointed by President Obama since Senate majority leader Harry Reid deployed his nuclear option to avoid Republican opposition last fall.
With liberal judges outnumbering conservatives now by eight to five, it’s likely that the court will take back its initial ruling and approve the subsidies, taking the pressure off the Supreme Court to hear the case.
At issue: Can the executive branch rewrite the law without going back to congress? Liberal judges say sure, why not? The constitution grants the executive branch broad leeway in determining how to enforce the law.
That may be true. But the clear intent of Congress was not to grant Obamacare subsidies to those who went through the federal exchange to get their insurance. This is an unusually clear case of congressional intent in that they made it plain throughout the 1100 page law who should get subsidies.
The Oklahoma decision will also end up in federal appeals court. If the ruling holds, a Supreme Court showdown will be inevitable.