U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled Thursday against the Obama administration and an important provision of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the law did not provide for funds required for insurers to make the program affordable for low-income Americans.
In her 38-page ruling, Collyer said that while the ACA does provide for tax credits, it does not appropriate funds for reducing deductibles and copayments. Without such funds, many consumers would not be able to buy insurance on the exchanges.
“Congress authorized reduced cost-sharing but did not appropriate monies for it,” Collyer wrote. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
Under the ACA, subsidies are available for people earning between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level—or for a family of four with earnings of between $24,300 and $60,750.
Collyer delayed blocking such payments while awaiting an expected appeal from the Obama administration.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) applauded the decision in a press release Thursday. “This is an historic win for the Constitution and the American people,” he said. “The court ruled that the administration overreached by spending taxpayer money without approval from the people’s representatives. Here, the executive branch is being held accountable to We the People, and that’s why this decision is very good news.”
In his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest downplayed the ruling Thursday, deferring to the Justice Department on next steps the administration will take.
“It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to re-fight a political fight that they keep losing,” he said. “They’ve been losing this fight for six years. And they’ll lose it again.”
Residents of 38 states use the federal Healthcare.gov website to purchase insurance. About 9.6 million Americans are receiving subsidies today.
Collyer was appointed by President George W. Bush.
Our Take: While House Republicans seem ambitious to take down President Obama’s signature achievement, the matter won’t be resolved while this president is in office. Thursday’s ruling marks the start of a lengthy appeals process that is unlikely to derail continued growth in the market exchanges.