One might think a 2700-page, largely unread healthcare bill passed solely by Democrats that remains as unpopular as ever might chasten the president who championed it. Especially when that effort was based on a litany of lies, one of which earned Obama Politifact’s 2013 Lie of the Year award. Yet as FactCheck.org has documented, the president remains determined to double down on his continuing effort to deceive the American public. And sad to say, yesterday morning the Supreme Court rewarded the administration for its mendacity. In a 6-3 ruling, SCOTUS upheld the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to provide insurance subsidies on healthcare exchanges in every state, despite wording in the original bill limiting such subsidies to exchanges “established by the state.”
We begin with Obama’s insistence that Americans who had insurance prior to the passage of ObamaCare “got a better deal now” in reference to the additional insurance requirements provided by the law. Yet those additional requirements come at a higher cost for many Americans, and many of those requirements, such as maternity care coverage provided to single men or the elderly, are nothing more than subsidies that force some Americans to underwrite the healthcare of other Americans.
A webpage promoting the president’s assertion that “129 million people who could have otherwise been denied or faced discrimination now have access to coverage,” is grossly misleading. Most of those Americans already had access to healthcare through their employers, before ObamaCare was even launched. Furthermore, if the business mandate was so great, why was it unilaterally delayed by the White House until 2015, and why have so many businesses cut employee hours below the 30-hour-per-week threshold at which the employer mandate to provide health insurance kicks in?
Obama also insists the rate of uninsured Americans is at “its lowest level ever.” Yet his Council of Economic Advisers examined data compiled by the National Health Interview Survey. The most recent information available from the first nine months of 2014 reveals the number of uninsured Americans is higher than it was a few years in decades past. And what Obama didn’t say is equally important: 71 percent of the newly insured have signed up for Medicaid, which will ultimately strain state budgets when they are forced to share the costs currently covered by the federal government. Those budgets have been further strained by the fact that doctor reimbursement rates for Medicaid are so low, states have been forced to supplement them in order to get physicians to accept Medicaid patients. And it’s likely to get worse: in March, the Supreme Court ruled that private Medicaid providers cannot sue to force states to raise reimbursement rates despite rising medical costs. This will undoubtedly cause some of those private insurers to drop coverage, putting even more pressure on state budgets.
Obama says premiums are “$1800 lower today” on average than they would have been without the law. Even his advisors admit the law isn’t entirely responsible for a slowdown trend that’s occurred in recent years -- a slowdown attributed at least in part to the worst recovery since the Great Depression.
And that trend may be a thing of the past: insurers are proposing double-digit premium hikes for 2016, driven by higher-than-anticipated costs, and more real-world data reflecting the reality that insurers did not sign up sufficient numbers of healthy American to offset the costs imposed by the less healthy. Moreover, those rate hike proposals have come before the trio of cost buffers known as Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance and Risk Corridors—allowing insurance companies to keep rates artificially low—expire in 2017. That's when insurance companies will be forced to charge real-world premiums for real-world ObamaCare mandates and costs are likely to skyrocket.
More to the point, the so-called $1800 in savings stand in stark contrast to one of the more egregious lies told by this president prior to the bill’s passage: who can possibly forget that Obama repeatedly sold the healthcare law with the promise it would reduce the typical family's annual premiums by up to $2,500 per year?
Since the FactCheck.org piece appeared, yet another lie told by this administration came to light. As the Wall Street Journal reports, a series of emails provided by the House Oversight Committee to the paper reveals that Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber worked far more closely with the administration to shape the law than it had admitted. Despite Obama’s dismissal of Gruber as “some adviser who never worked on our staff,” the emails reveal “frequent consultations between Mr. Gruber and top Obama administration staffers and advisers in the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services on the Affordable Care Act,” the Journal states. "They show he informed HHS about interviews with reporters and discussions with lawmakers, and he consulted with HHS about how to publicly describe his role.”
Those officials included Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jason Furman, an economic adviser to Obama, Nancy-Ann DeParle, former White House health reform director, Jeanne Lambrew, a top administration health advisor at HHS and the White House, and Ezekiel Emanuel, himself a special adviser for health policy at OMB.
Obama had attempted to distance himself from Gruber following revelations of Gruber’s mindset on ObamaCare. A series of videos from 2013 showed the economist boasting about the “huge political advantage” ObamaCare’s lack of transparency provided the administration, and that “the stupidity of the American voter . . . was really, really critical for the thing to pass.” Gruber also admits the administration knew all along that ObamaCare was a tax, but if Americans ever realized that to be the case, “the bill dies.” Thus it “was written in a tortured way to make sure [the CBO] did not score the mandate as taxes.”
And yet again on several occasions, Obama pushed that lie, highlighted by his 2009 interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos when he absolutely rejected the notion the individual mandate was a tax—only to have his solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, do a complete about face and make the argument before the Supreme Court that it was.
The difference was huge allowing Chief Justice John Roberts to cast his deciding vote in favor the law’s constitutionality. “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” wrote Roberts in 2012.
Yesterday, once again Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the Court, as did Justice Anthony Kennedy. "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, further insisting the “establish by the state” qualifier is "properly viewed as ambiguous.”
Justice Antonin Scalia’s withering dissent was far more on point. “Words no longer have meaning,” he wrote. He went on: "Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act's limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges.”
And then, the capper, one that bodes ill for America’s future. Scalia explained the ruling "will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”
Thus, the Court once again rewrote ObamaCare to save it. And it doing so, it validated a massive power grab by the president, one that allows him to spend hundreds of billions of dollars absent any input from Congress. Moreover, and far more troubling, a terrible precedent has been established: a president may now unilaterally alter or suspend any law on nothing more than an unconstitutional whim, solidifying the concept of an imperial Executive as never before. In short, the nation has entered uncharted waters.
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