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Reining in ObamaCare–and the President

July 25, 2014 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon, Jonathan H. Adler

Michael F. Cannon and Jonathan H. Adler

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—a tribunal second only to the Supreme Court—ruled on Tuesday that the Obama administration broke the law. The panel found that President Obama spent billions of taxpayer dollars he had no authority to spend, and subjected millions of employers and individuals to taxes he had no authority to impose.

The ruling came in Halbig v. Burwell, one of four lawsuits aimed at stopping those unlawful taxes and expenditures. It is a decision likely to have far-reaching repercussions for the health-care law.

Because the ruling forces the Obama administration to implement the Affordable Care Act as written, consumers in 36 states would face the full cost of its overpriced health insurance. According to one brief filed in the case, overall premiums in those states would be double what they are under the administration’s rewrite, and typical enrollees would see their out-of-pocket payments jump sevenfold. The resulting backlash against how ObamaCare actually works could finally convince even Democrats to reopen the statute.

Halbig v. Burwell is about determining whether the president, like an autocrat, can levy taxes on his own.”

At its heart, though, Halbig is not just about ObamaCare. It is about determining whether the president, like an autocrat, can levy taxes on his own authority.

The president’s defenders often concede that he is doing the opposite of what federal law says. Yet he claims that he is merely implementing the law as Congress intended.

Such claims should be met with more than the usual skepticism when made by a president who openly advocates unilateral action—“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone”—when the legislative process doesn’t produce the result he wants, and when they are made by a president whose expansive view of his powers the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected 13 times. Unfortunately, the abuse of power exposed in Halbig may trump them all.

Here’s where the president broke bad. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act directs states to establish “exchanges” to regulate the sale of health insurance. If a state declines to do so, as 36 states have, the health-care law directs the federal government to “establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” But here’s the rub: Certain taxpayers can receive subsidized coverage, the law says, if they enroll “through an Exchange established by the State.” The law nowhere authorizes subsidies through exchanges …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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