Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Does Obamacare Cover Being Sick Of This Shit?

Well, the Constitution does guarantee the right to a speedy trial.

I'm getting so fed up with the debate over Obamacare.  No one is talking about fixing the system so that health insurers are not in charge and making out like bandits, it's either keep the entire thing or ditch the entire thing.  I'm used to the dicks in this circle jerk swinging back and forth, but this happening in the space of a few hours is giving me whiplash.

For the past week, I've been watching the US Court Of Appeals for the DC Circuit.  They were set to rule on the case of Halbig vs. Burwell.  The subject is the legality of the subsidies, one of four lawsuits currently winding its way through the sausage press of the American legal system.  See, if you get your health insurance through an exchange but make less than $46,075 a year, you can get tax subsidies to offset your health care costs.  It can reduce the amount the person pays per month to as little as a quarter of what they were originally going to pay.  For example, a person who would be paying $346 per month would only pay $82 per month.

Now, that's the Cliff's Notes version.  The truth is a bit murkier, and that's what brought about the lawsuit.  According to the Affordable Care Act (the proper name for Obamacare), the subsidies are for exchanges run by states.  There are 16 of these.  However, the IRS, which enforces the ACA and its penalties, decided to extend subsidies to the federally run exchanges that serve the other 36 states.  According to the Obama administration in May, 87% of people getting their health insurance through the federal exchanges are receiving subsidies (that's just a general number -- for example, Mississippi has a 94% rate of people on the federal exchange getting subsidies).  The lawsuit alleges that the ACA itself says the subsidies can be provided "through an Exchange established by the State."  The federal government's exchanges are not state exchanges, they cannot be used in the federal exchanges, only the state exchanges, so stop that shit.

This effectively means that, of the 8 million people currently signed up for Obamacare, 5.4 million will see their costs go through the roof.  The oral arguments were heard in March, and a decision was supposed to come down any day from July 15 onward.  Well, today it did, with a ruling that the subsidies could not be used on the federal exchanges.

(I am disappointed that the Obama administration declared it would continue to hand out subsidies as the case went through the appeals process.  That's open defiance of the law, whether you are an Obama fan or not.)

An appeal was filed to be heard by the full court.  This tilted the odds in favor of allowing the subsidies.  The initial appeals court had three judges, one supporting the plaintiffs, one opposing, and a third swing vote by a judge appointed by George H.W. "Shrub" Bush.  The full court is seven Democratic judges and four Republicans, four of which Obama appointed himself.

Well, guess what?  Within a few hours, another of the cases was heard by the DC Fourth Circuit, and while the DC appeals court said the wording stated the subsidies couldn't be used, the Fourth Circuit ruled the language was "ambiguous," that Congress's intent was for the subsidies to apply to the fed exchanges, and that the subsidies were "desperately-needed."  "It is...clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act's primary goals (what about busting up the for-profit health care industry?  That would go a lot further. -- G) and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill.  The statue as a whole clearly evinced Congress's intent to make the tax credits available nationwide."  Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the majority opinion that the "applicable statutory language is ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations.  Applying deference to the IRS's determination, however, we uphold the rule as a permissible exercise of the agency's discretion."

Wow.  Look at all them words.  And in just a few hours of the original decision.  Not a surprise.  Everyone knows this will be appealed to the Supreme Court, so why wouldn't the appeals court save some time by having this ready to go?

(I would also like to point out that Gregory acted like an asshole.  He made sure in the ruling he wrote to snidely say that individuals not wishing to participate in Obamacare should just pay the "tiny tax penalty" and quit bitching.  Uh, that "tiny tax penalty" is $95 this year, but next year is $695 or 2.5% of their income.  Care to throw us commoners some gold from your ivory tower?)

And appealed it shall be.  You have two contradictory rulings here.  Although the first can still be overturned on appeal, there's still two more coming.  Watch SCOTUS.  If they agree to hear the case, there's a better than even shot they will overturn the ruling -- if they aren't, they'll just let the ruling(s) stand.

All the while, political wonks who don't have to deal with the fallout and consequences of the laws they pass or oppose continue to jerk themselves off.

With us in the middle.


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