‘A real bomb-thrower’: Pending case experts say could kill Obamacare overnight

A pending federal court ruling could upset the entire Obamacare applecart and send the president’s titular achievement back to the Supreme Court.

The appellate court in Washington, D.C., could decide Halbig v. Burwell as early as today, deciding whether the federal subsidies provided to 90 percent of Obamacare enrollees who signed up through the federal exchange are legal, according to CNBC.

Michael Cannon, director of health studies for the Cato Institute, helped craft the plaintiff’s argument. Studying the legislation carefully for three years, he has said that the Obama administration and its supporters are claiming powers “that “Congress never gave them, the powers to tax millions of employers and individuals to offer enrollees billions of dollars of subsidies through the federal exchange.”

“Supporters of the law have said that this will pose an ‘existential threat’ to the law,” he has noted. “If that’s true, what that means is that Obamacare cannot survive unless it has a buy-in from the states that it has never had.”

The plaintiffs contend that these subsidies were illegal because the Affordable Care Act authorized tax credits only for people who purchased plans through state exchanges or through the District of Columbia, CNBC reported.

“Potentially, the Halbig case threatens to undermine a huge part of Obamacare,” said CNBC reporter Dan Managan. “Specifically, it challenges the legality of the subsidies given to more than 5 million people who bought insurance via healthcare.gov, the federally-run Obamacare healthcare exchange.”

In an LA Times op-ed piece, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote on June 30, “Congress created incentives for states to set up health insurance exchanges…34 states opted not to…this left the White House with a dilemma: If only those enrollees in states that created exchanges were eligible for subsidies, a huge pool of people would be unable to afford coverage, and the entire program would be in danger of collapse.”

Obamacare Protest Photo Credit: partisans.org
Obamacare Protest
Photo Credit: partisans.org

The plaintiffs – small businesses from six states without state exchanges – argue that without the subsidies, they should be exempt from mandated penalties because they would be unable to afford the coverage.

If the court finds in their favor, premium costs would skyrocket in those 34 states and most enrollees would drop out, CNBC concluded.

That could toll a death knell for the program, sparking an appeal to the Supreme Court and hurling Obamacare back to the forefront of the public conscience.

Watch the video here via CNBC.

Richard Berkow

Former political news reporter Richard Berkow lost his idealism in the Kennedy years, and his innocence in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union. He hasn’t mellowed since, and can be harassed at [email protected]

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