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ObamaCare Constitutionality Test — Judges Unhappy

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Texas and 18 other Republican led states want the courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and have it declared unconstitutional. The rationale for the move comes from the 2017 tax reforms. Part of that law repealed ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

The conservative states contend the entire law is based on the mandate’s requirement that everyone purchase insurance or get health insurance from their employer. If that’s gone, then so is the law.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with the Republican-led states and declared ObamaCare unconstitutional.

California and 19 Democratic Party-controlled states, The District of Columbia and the U.S. House of Representatives disagree. They jumped into the battle when the Trump administration’s Justice Department failed to defend the law. The appeal is now before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The three-judge panel held a 90-minute hearing on the matter last week and the judges did not appear to be happy adjudicating the matter. Donald Trump appointee — and the panel’s newest member — Kurt Engelhardt asked the attorney for the U.S. House, “Why does Congress want the judiciary to be a taxidermist for every big-game legislative accomplishment it achieves?”

Judge Jennifer Elrod — appointed by George W. Bush — took on the Justice Department’s lawyer. “You want to strike it down, only in certain states, in its entirety?” she asked.

Jimmy Carter appointee — and the court’s third member — is Carolyn King. She did not say anything during the hearing.

In the end, Englehardt wrapped up the problem the two major political parties, the president and Congress have with the issue. And he did so in just a few sentences. “Can’t they do this tomorrow?” he said. “There’s a political solution and you’re asking this court to roll up its sleeves and get involved in it.”

That’s the real question before the court. What was the intention of Congress when it repealed the individual mandate? Did it mean to make the entire law unconstitutional, or was it to just strike down that part of the law?

The judges hit the heart of the matter with these questions. Can the individual mandate really be separated from the entire law, and if so, will ObamaCare continue to stand with the disappearance of the individual mandate?

The biggest worry of ObamaCare supporters is the possibility that the pre-existing condition protections will go away. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the worries are unnecessary.

“There’s nobody in the Senate not in favor of covering pre-existing conditions. Nobody,” McConnell said and he pointed out that the Senate will quickly act — in a bipartisan manner — to restore those protections if the court throws the entire law out.

This is just one suit of many being heard now about ObamaCare.

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to give several health insurers — led by Moda and including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Maine Community Health Options and Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance — a shot at getting $12 billion in payments they say the federal government owes them.

At issue are payments the government agreed to give to health insurers to help them offset losses during the first few years of ObamaCare. Republicans — who opposed the bill in 2010 — passed an appropriations bill for 2015 that barred the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using general funds to pay those obligations. Funds collected from insurance company fees could be given to the insurers but it was not enough money to pay what the government promised the health insurers.

The same rider was added to the 2016 and 2017 budgets and estimates are that insurers lost $12 billion on the issue.

Moda CEO Robert Gootee said he’s encouraged that the Supreme Court is going to hear their appeal of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that says the riders mean Congress isn’t on the hook for the money.

“We remain confident that the court will ultimately hold the government to its promise to pay those companies, including Moda, who answered the government’s call to provide access to affordable health care for the neediest of Americans,” Gootee said.

Source links: Insurance Journal — link 1, link 2, The Hill, Insurance Business America

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