Tag: jonathan adler

The Wall Street Journal on Halbig v. Sebelius

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius, one of four cases that Jonathan Adler and I helped spur with our 2013 Health Matrix article, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.” Critics call Halbig the most significant existential threat to the Affordable Care Act.” In anticipation of the hearing, the Wall Street Journal wrote a lengthy editorial explaining the issues. Excerpts:

Halbig v. Sebelius involves no great questions of constitutional interpretation. The plaintiffs are merely asking the judges to tell the Administration to faithfully execute the plain language of the statute that Congress passed and President Obama signed.

The Affordable Care Act—at least the version that passed in 2010—instructed the states to establish insurance exchanges, and if they didn’t the Health and Human Services Department was authorized to build federal exchanges. The law says that subsidies will be available only to people who enroll “through an Exchange established by the State.” The question in Halbig is whether these taxpayer subsidies can be distributed through the federal exchanges, as the Administration insists…

In 2012, HHS and the Internal Revenue Service arrogated to themselves the power to rewrite the law and published a regulation simply decreeing that subsidies would be available through the federal exchanges too. The IRS devoted only a single paragraph to its deviation from the statute, even though the “established by a State” language appears nine times in the law’s text. The rule claims that an exchange established on behalf of a state is a “federally established state-established exchange,” as if HHS is the 51st state.

Careful spadework into ObamaCare’s legislative history by Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute has demonstrated that this jackalope rule-making was contrary to Congress’s intent…

Mr. Obama has conceded that “obviously we didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law.” The right and only lawful way to repair ObamaCare is through another act of Congress. In Halbig, the judiciary can remind the Obama Administration of this basic constitutional truth.

Jonathan Adler critiques the Halbig district court’s ruling in favor of the IRS here.

Find lots of commentary by me on the Halbig cases at DarwinsFool.com.

This reference guide contains all the information you could want about these cases – and more.

Guess Who’s One of the Hill’s ‘100 People to Watch This Fall’

I guess I’ll have to tout this myself. Last week, the Hill newspaper put me on its list of “the 100 people you can’t ignore this fall if you’re wondering how events in Congress and the White House will play out.” Here’s the write-up

Michael Cannon Director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute
 
Think the Supreme Court has settled the question of ObamaCare’s legality? Not if Cannon has anything to say about it. Cannon is a tireless advocate for the argument that the IRS has illegally implemented the healthcare law’s insurance subsidies, which will help low-income households cover the cost of their premiums. 
 
His argument is that healthcare law, as written, does not allow for the subsidies to be used in healthcare marketplaces that are set up by the federal government.
 
He helped the state of Oklahoma file a lawsuit against the subsidies, and a group of small businesses filed a separate suit on the same grounds, in case Cannon’s runs into procedural roadblocks.
 
If the lawsuits Cannon has spearheaded are successful, they could have a devastating impact on the healthcare law. A final decision in favor would stop the flow of tax subsidies to people in more than half of the states, making ObamaCare far less attractive to consumers and stripping away much of the law’s promise of affordability.

Corrections and amplifications. The argument is as much Jonathan Adler’s as mine; we develop it together in this law-journal article. The argument is not that the IRS is illegally implementing otherwise lawful subsidies; it is that the IRS is trying to dispense some $700 billion in illegal subsidies that Congress expressly did not authorize, and impose illegal taxes on millions of employers and individual Americans starting in 2014; that the Obama administration is attempting to tax, borrow, and spend nearly $1 trillion without congressional authorization. Finally, I am neither a party nor counsel nor financier to either Pruitt v. Sebelius or Halbig v. Sebelius.

Harvard Health Policy Review on the IRS’s Illegal ObamaCare Taxes

In the just-released Spring 2013 issue of Harvard Health Policy Review, I have an article titled “ObamaCare: The Plot Thickens.” The article examines the IRS rule that purportedly implements ObamaCare’s tax credits, but actually violates that statute by taxing, borrowing, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars contrary to Congress’ explicit instructions. (The article is a less-technical version of my Health Matrix article (coauthored with Jonathan Adler), “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.”) Here’s an excerpt:

In broad daylight, the Internal Revenue Service is attempting to tax, borrow, and spend [roughly] $800 billion—contrary to both the express language of the PPACA and congressional intent. Thus in addition to other abuses that have recently come to light, the IRS is attempting to tax millions of employers and individuals without congressional authorization…

In this still-unfolding narrative, the Obama administration’s actions are triply anti-democratic. First, the IRS is violating a direct constraint that popularly elected legislators placed on the executive branch. Second, it is violating that duly enacted statute for the purpose of denying popularly elected state officials the vetoes Congress gave them over certain provisions of the statute. And third, it is violating the statute because administration officials either cannot fathom or will not accept that Congress meant to do what it clearly did.

Obama administration officials continually emphasize that the PPACA is “the law of the land.” That remains to be seen, in more ways than one.

ObamaCare, Democracy, and Jonathan Cohn

At The New Republic’s blog, Jonathan Cohn grumbles about the insolence of ObamaCare opponents:

Across the country, Republican state officials vilify the law…In Washington, Republican members of Congress are trying to undermine the law by denying funding for outreach and implementation. According to a report by Elise Viebeck  in The Hill, a few Republicans have suggested they won’t help constituents having trouble enrolling in the new insurance options. And, as Anne Kim and Ed Kilgore from the Washington Monthly recently reported, they’re even refusing to work with churches on crafting a bipartisan fix to what looks like a predictable, if inevitable, glitch in the law’s drafting.

Nobody expects Republicans to praise Obamacare or to give up efforts at repeal, assuming they feel strongly about it. But, as long as Obamacare remains on the books, don’t even its critics have some obligation to enforce the law in good faith? Shouldn’t they be helping constituents without insurance to take advantage of the law’s new options?

Let’s first examine the absurdity of Cohn complaining that “Republican members of Congress are trying to undermine the law by denying funding for outreach and implementation.” Wait, you mean ObamaCare didn’t include enough funding for its own implementation? How does the fault for that lie with congressional Republicans (who opposed this law), rather than congressional Democrats (who enacted it with inadequate funding)? Doesn’t the need for additional funding mean ObamaCare will cost more than supporters claimed when they enacted it? And wasn’t that an accusation they denied? Shouldn’t Cohn be criticizing Democrats for that, too? Does Cohn really mean to say that legislators have a duty to vote to fund a law they want to repeal? Does he also believe legislators have a duty to fund “outreach and implementation” for anti-sodomy laws? What about voter-ID laws? Marijuana prohibition is horribly under-funded; think of all the users who don’t go to jail. Do legislators have a duty to ensure those laws are fully funded and implemented? Do they have a duty to fix any glitches in those laws?

As for Cohn’s question, “as long as Obamacare remains on the books, don’t even its critics have some obligation to enforce the law in good faith?” Any middle-school civics student could tell him the answer is “no.” In our system of government, the executive branch enforces the law, not the legislature, and not the citizenry. So with respect to the federal government, that means there are exactly zero ObamaCare opponents who have a duty to enforce this law. The Supreme Court has clarified that nobody at the state level has a duty to enforce it, either. Given that many opponents (including me) believe ObamaCare to be an unjust law, we could go farther and say critics have a moral duty to resist or disobey itFinally, it’s hard to take Cohn seriously when Jonathan Adler and I are trying to get the Obama administration to enforce the law in good faith, yet Cohn is trying to stop us.

Plaintiffs Ask Court to Block IRS’s Illegal ObamaCare Taxes this Year

I have blogged about the Internal Revenue Service’s attempt to tax, borrow, and spend $800 billion contrary to the clear language of ObamaCare, and how both Oklahoma (in Pruitt v. Sebelius) and a group of individuals and small businesses (in Halbig v. Sebelius) have filed suit to block this raw power grab. The Congressional Research Service writes that these challenges “could be a major obstacle to the implementation of [ObamaCare].” George Mason University law professor Michael Greve writes:

This is huge: all of Obamacare hangs on the outcome…If successful…[either] case will bring Obamacare’s Exchange engine to a screeching halt…In short, this is for all the marbles.

Last week, the Halbig plaintiffs asked the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia to speed things up. Though the IRS doesn’t have to respond to the Halbig complaint until July, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to rule on the case before the end of 2013. According to the plaintiffs:

Plaintiffs need a determination on the merits far enough in advance of January 1, 2014, to allow them to conform their behavior to the law. Because the validity of the regulation turns on a purely legal question and the administrative record is closed, Plaintiffs are moving for summary judgment now, and hope thereby to avoid the need to litigate a motion for preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order at the eleventh hour.

The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment cites my paper (with Jonathan Adler), “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.”

On June 17, one week from today, Cato will host a policy forum on Halbig v. Sebelius featuring plaintiffs’ counsel Michael Carvin and other luminaries. Register here.

Ohio, Missouri Introduce the Health Care Freedom Act 2.0

Ohio Reps. Ron Young (R-Leroy Twp.) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), and Missouri Sen. John Lamping (R-St. Louis County), have introduced legislation—we call it the Health Care Freedom Act 2.0—that would suspend the licenses of insurance carriers who accept federal subsidies through one of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) health insurance Exchanges. At first glance, that might seem to conflict with or otherwise be preempted by the PPACA. Neither is the case. Instead, the HCFA 2.0 would require the IRS to implement the PPACA as Congress intended.

Here’s why. Under the PPACA, if an employer doesn’t purchase a government-prescribed level of health benefits, some of its workers may become eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through a health insurance “exchange.” When the IRS issues the subsidy to an insurance company on behalf of one of those workers, that payment triggers penalties against the employer. Firms with 100 employees could face penalties as high as $140,000.

Congress authorized those subsides, and therefore those penalties, only in states that establish a health insurance Exchange. If a state defers that task to the federal government, as 33 states including Missouri and Ohio have done, the PPACA clearly provides that there can be no subsidies and therefore no penalties against employers. The IRS has nevertheless announced it will implement those subsidies and penalties in the 33 states that have refused to establish Exchanges. Applying those measures in non-establishing states violates the clear language of the PPACA and congressional intent. See Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA,” Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 23 (2013): 119-195.

Whether legal or illegal, those penalties also violate the freedoms protected by the Health Care Freedom Amendment to Ohio’s Constitution, and Missouri’s original Health Care Freedom Act, which voters in each state ratified by overwhelming majorities. The Ohio (HB 91) and Missouri (SB 473) bills would protect employers and workers from those penalties, and thereby uphold the freedoms enshrined in Missouri statute and Ohio’s Constitution, by suspending the licenses of insurance carriers that accept those subsidies.

The question arises whether the PPACA would preempt such a law. It does not. The HCFA 2.0 neither conflicts with federal law, nor attempts to nullify federal law, nor is preempted by federal law.

The HCFA 2.0 concerns a field of law—insurance licensure—that has traditionally been a province of the states under their police powers. In preemption cases, courts “start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” Wyeth v. Levine, 129 S. Ct. 1187, 1194-95 (2009). Courts then must determine whether the state law in question is nevertheless trumped by express or implied federal preemption.

Issa: IRS Is Violating ObamaCare by Illegally Taxing Employers in 33 States

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) writes in the Washington Examiner

To combat the sticker shock of Obamacare’s numerous requirements on health insurance premiums, the law creates expensive subsidies, which take the form of tax credits, for individuals who purchase a government-approved insurance plan. In order to avoid the appearance of a federal takeover of health care, the law ties the availability of these premium tax credits to an “Exchange established by the State.” Importantly, the way the law was written, if tax credits are not available within a state, then the expensive employer mandate tax does not apply to companies within that state.

With so many states refusing to play the role the law’s drafters envisioned, the Obama administration has embarked on a legally dubious effort to bypass the plain language of the law. Obama’s IRS has issued a rule that delivers the expensive subsidies through federally run exchanges as well. If it stands, this extralegal rule will undermine the decision-making role offered to states by Obamacare, and cause hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes and spending not authorized by the president’s health care law…

The language that limits tax credits to state-established exchanges should not now shock Obamacare’s supporters. Early in 2009, legal scholar Timothy Jost, one of Obamacare’s leading proponents, explicitly suggested linking the tax credits to state-established exchanges as a way to encourage states to set up the exchanges.

The Obama administration may be surprised and disappointed that many states have not found the refundable tax credit to be a sufficient incentive to set up their own exchanges, exposing their citizens to the other taxes and penalties associated with the law. But this does not justify the administration’s effort to ignore the plain language of the law that Obama championed and signed.

For more on this issue, see Jonathan Adler’s and my Health Matrix article, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.”

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