Thanks to the emperor and Supreme Court, clear laws no longer mean what they say
Big difference, eh?
They also argued that Obamacare would collapse if the law wasn't changed to make the language of the law agree with what they claimed was the intent all along.
The problem was that the actual wording of Act clearly imposed the penalty--whether called a "fine" or a "tax"--only on residents of states that had set up their own "state exchange," and not in states that had opted to join the federal insurance exchange.
And only 16 states had set up state exchanges. Officials in the other 34 realized that trying to set up and run a state health insurance vendor was likely to be a disaster, so they chose to join the federal exchange.
Thus if the law remained as the clear, unequivocal language stated, residents of those 34 states wouldn't have to pay any fine for not buying health insurance. This would remove the incentive to buy such insurance, since the law also forced insurance companies to sell health insurance to people even if they had a "pre-existing condition," at the same price as those who were perfectly healthy.
Needless to say, this ruined the Democrats' rosy projections for the number of people who would buy health insurance--killing the amount of projected premiums.
The emperor's agents argued--correctly--that if the court allowed the law to do what the actual language very clearly said, people in the 34 states on the federal "exchange" wouldn't buy insurance, meaning premiums would have to rise hugely--leading even more people to not buy health insurance and throwing the system into what was termed a "death spiral."
So the administration asked the court to simply re-write the law to change the allegedly unintended language, extending the mandate to every American--despite the clear language to the contrary.
Six of the supreme court judges agreed with the government's bizarre claim that no one in congress ever intended the law to mean what it clearly said, and that this would indeed doom Obamacare. Accordingly, the court simply declared that the financial penalty applied to every American. In effect the court said "We declare that clear, unequivocal language doesn't mean what it says."
Fast-forward to today, just over a year later. Insurers are announcing on practically a weekly basis that they are trimming or even eliminating their Obamacare coverage in more and more states. They give as the reason that healthy individuals are not buying insurance under Obamacare as expected, thus triggering a death spiral.
Wait, didn't the Supreme Court protect Obamacare against a death spiral by deciding, as the president's lackeys argued, that the penalty--the "mandate"--applied in every state, regardless of whether it had a state exchange or the federal exchange? Yes. But that wasn't enough to fix it, because the same law exempted from the individual mandate a modest number of individuals in several categories. But the ACA left the barn door wide open with the last category: "[a]ny applicable individual who for any month is determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ... to have suffered a hardship with respect to capability to obtain coverage under a qualified health plan." That is the so-called "hardship" exemption.
The Obama administration then took it upon themselves to issue regulations defining "hardship" in such expansive terms that huge swathes of the population are exempt from the individual mandate. You heard that right: after pleading with the Supreme Court to make sure that the individual mandate applies nationwide, so as to avoid a death spiral, the administration has itself triggered a death spiral by issuing regulations exempting tens of millions from the individual mandate.
For 2015, the list of exemptions invented by the bureaucrats and said to represent "hardship" relieving the individual from the individual mandate includes:
- eviction within the past six months,
- facing eviction or foreclosure (even if not evicted yet),
- received a shutoff notice from a utility company,
- experienced domestic violence,
- death of a close family member,
- fire or flood or other disaster that caused substantial damage to your property whether natural or man-made,
- filed for bankruptcy within the past six months,
- medical expenses within the last 24 months that you couldn't afford to pay,
- unexpected increases in expenses due to caring for a family member who was ill or disabled or just aging,
- a child has no medical coverage because some other person is responsible (by court order) but has not paid,
- ineligibility for Medicaid because your state did not expand eligibility under Obamacare, or
- your individual insurance plan was cancelled and you believe other marketplace plans are unaffordable.
Those uninsured who can't find a way to fit into one of those categories just aren't trying. But just in case they can't, the regulations let them make up their own category: any other hardship that prevented them from obtaining health insurance.
The effect of these exemptions has been to remove the threat of having to pay a fine or tax from millions of people who simply don't want to buy health insurance under Obamacare. The Wall Street Journal summed it up: "[a]lmost 90% of the national's 30 million uninsured won't pay a penalty...in 2016 because of a growing batch of exemptions to the health-coverage requirements."
So the emperor got the decision he wanted from the Supreme Court by claiming--correctly--that his signature law would collapse unless the court fixed it--but then just a couple of years later directed his lackeys to issue regulations shielding almost all of the uninsured from the individual mandate--thus guaranteeing the very death spiral that scared the Supreme Court into re-writing the law.
And now, as insurers are announcing their departure from Obamacare--due to lack of participation by healthy individuals--he's leaving the White House, leaving someone else to clean up the disaster he and his Democrat congress caused.
To many observers the court's decision in King v. Burwell was a clear case of the court re-writing a fatally flawed law, clearly to avoid forcing the emperor to use the time-honored method of asking congress to amend allegedly flawed laws. All Democrat leaders knew that they couldn't use the traditional method without having to compromise, which meant the court was the way to go.
Just so we're clear, courts at all levels have been called on to resolve ambiguous language in legislation and contracts. This is uncontroversial. But the key word there is ambiguous. The language of the laughably mis-name "affordable care act" was totally clear. Yet the court changed it.
So what can we learn from all this? If you're a Democrat/liberal/"progressive" the answer is: this is great. Do it like this every time, because it lets us sneak things into the law which the clear language totally contradicted. And eventually the system will be so utterly fucked up that people will beg you to take care of 'em. Result: Perpetual Democrat control of government.
If you're NOT a Democrat the answer is: don't vote for Democrats.
Closing question: How long can a nation delude itself into claiming it's a "nation of laws" when the plain language of a law can be changed--by the courts--because the president doesn't like the result?
Hat tip: Hollis Hurd at American Thinker