Heartland Institute Experts React to Latest Obamacare Ruling in Federal Court

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The following statements by health care and legal experts at The Heartland Institute about the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruling on Obamacare on Tuesday may be used for attribution.

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Benjamin Domenech, research fellow, health care policy, The Heartland Institute

Now citizens in the 36 states which chose not to bow to the administration’s wishes must wait to see whether higher courts will find they will be free from Obamacare’s requirements as well.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Tuesday ruled in Halbig v. Burwell (No. 14
-5018) (read the decision here) that those who participate in the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act are not eligible for subsidies under Obamacare. The Internal Revenue Service had treated the 14 state-run exchanges and the federal exchange as identical under the law. The DC Circuit said they are not to be treated the same.

The following statements from health care policy and legal experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely(at)heartland(dot)org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“Today a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. found that words mean what they mean, and not what the Obama administration interprets them to mean – a revolutionary concept in this era of unfettered government. The court found that a federal exchange is not an ‘exchange established by the State’ under the law, and that the nine separate times eligibility is described under the law in these terms do not indicate a mere typo or drafting error, but reflect the intent of the Congress.

“Despite his interest in doing so, President Obama cannot spend tax dollars without federal authorization – and the court found no such authorization has been granted for the subsidies currently being offered via the federal health insurance exchange. The simple fact, as the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler have demonstrated, is that Congress intended to use the bias toward state exchange dollars to force states to set up exchanges – never expecting that states would resist this push so emphatically.

“Now citizens in the 36 states which chose not to bow to the administration’s wishes must wait to see whether higher courts will find they will be free from Obamacare’s requirements as well.”

Benjamin Domenech
Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
The Heartland Institute

“The D.C. Circuit ruling applies bedrock constitutional law principles. As the U.S. Supreme Court held on June 23 in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA: ‘An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.’ The Court emphasized that ‘an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.’

“The law that Congress enacted and the president signed is the law that the courts must apply.”

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University

“Once again the ill-considered manner in which a single political party forced an unpopular mandate on an unwilling people for partisan political purposes has reared its ugly head.

“On this point, the language of the woefully misnamed Affordable Care Act could not be clearer: Federal income tax credits are available only to individuals who purchase health insurance through so-called ‘exchanges’ ‘established by the state,’ meaning one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. But the same Internal Revenue Service that lost all of Lois Lerner’s important emails and then destroyed her hard drive has interpreted the statute to allow tax credits for those who buy insurance through a federal ‘exchange’ in states that did not establish them.

“Yet the administration may succeed in convincing either the DC Circuit, which ruled against it, to reconsider and overturn today’s panel decision, or the Roberts Supreme Court to side with the Fourth Circuit and against the DC Circuit. If so, then a tax that is not a tax can be imposed or not imposed on supposedly sovereign citizens without a clear legislative mandate from their representatives in Congress, at the insistence of a plainly political agency.

“The legal contortions required to do so will more closely resemble the adventures of Alice in Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass than any kind of straightforward statutory construction, and the rule of law will suffer yet another blow.”

David L. Applegate
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute

“King John, before he was forced to sign the Magna Carta, said, ‘The law is in my mouth.’ The IRS said essentially the same thing when ruling that people could get Obamacare subsidies through federally run exchanges even though the Affordable Care Act clearly said it had to be through state exchanges.

“The D.C. Circuit Court disagreed in the Halbig case: The law is in the written language of the law, not in what an agency thinks it should say. Was it a ‘sloppy drafting error’? Or a failed attempt to coerce states to establish exchanges? If Congress wants to apply the subsidies to federal exchanges, it should pass a law that says so.

“If upheld, the D.C. Circuit ruling would free huge numbers of American businesses from Obamacare penalties.”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

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Heartland Institute
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