Two federal appeals court rulings on Tuesday perfectly illustrate the flaws that in a sane world would bring about the collapse of Obamacare. If only we lived in a sane world.
First, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., ruled 3-2 in Halbig vs. Sebelius that the words “an Exchange established by the State” mean exactly what they say. The law states clearly that health insurance subsidies are available only to people who buy their insurance on “an Exchange established by the State.” Exchanges created by the federal government may not offer subsidies.
That is the law, and the restriction was intentional. It was drafted that way to encourage states to create their own exchanges. But few states were enticed. So in May 2012, the IRS illegally rewrote the law. It “interpreted” the law so that subsidies would be available through all exchanges “regardless of whether the Exchange is established and operated by a State.”
The D.C. court upheld the law as written, not as the IRS deliberately misinterpreted it. New Hampshire is one of 36 states that did not create its own exchange, so if the ruling were to stand on appeal about 30,000 Granite Staters who bought subsidized insurance through the exchange would see their premiums rise.
But hours later the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fourth Circuit ruled that the exact same phrase — “an Exchange established by the State” was “ambiguous” and could fairly be interpreted by the IRS to mean any exchange, even one not “established by the State.”
Where does that leave us? It leaves us with Obamacare supporters making this claim: Obamacare is the law of the land, and the law is whatever the President of the United States says it is, regardless of what the statute actually says.
It is the same argument they made regarding the individual mandate. President Obama told the American people the mandate was not a tax. Then his administration told the Supreme Court it was. It is how Obama has attempted to justify his repeated delays and exemptions that contradict the language of the law, but without which the law would collapse.
In a sane world, laws mean what their actual words mean, and Presidents and judges don’t get to override the will of Congress by “interpreting” laws to mean what they plainly do not. But we live in a world shaped by “progressive” theories that say laws mean whatever the people in power want them to mean. In such a world, the law is always and forever on the side of those who have power. Have we forgotten that the United States of America was created to be a refuge from exactly that sort of place?