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House Republicans Take Affordable Care Act to Court

Legal challenge cites employer mandate and subsidies to insurance companies

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has once again made its way to court, according to reports from Reuters and the Fiscal Times. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., is considering a legal challenge from House Republicans, who say that President Obama exceeded his executive authority in implementing major provisions of the Act.

House Speaker John Boehner filed the lawsuit in November, claiming that the administration abused its use of executive action when making two separate changes to the PPACA without congressional authorization —– including delaying the employer mandate for 1 year and paying subsidies to insurance companies in order to cover the cost of insuring low-income people, the Fiscal Times says.

“The president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said last year. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

The administration twice delayed the employer mandate, which requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage to workers or pay steep penalties.

The employer mandate is an unpopular provision among Republicans, who have argued that requiring employers to provide health insurance to full-time employees could result in job cuts. The administration announced that instead of taking effect in 2014, as the law had originally provided, the employer mandate would kick in for large businesses in 2015 and for mid-size companies in 2016.

The Republicans’ suit also challenges a cost-sharing program that they claim is a “bailout” of insurance companies with money never appropriated by Congress. The program is intended to help insurers offset the costs of covering low-income people in order to entice the companies to participate in the health exchanges. The government is estimated to pay out $175 billion to insurance companies over the next 10 years.

The House voted to authorize the legal challenge against the administration last summer. However, the effort ran into roadblocks when Boehner had trouble finding an attorney — two Washington, D.C., law firms refused, the Fiscal Times reports.

The Republicans’ point is that by law, Congress should have had a say in the changes made to the PPACA. In turn, Justice Department lawyers are arguing that the House lacks the standing to sue, citing a section of U.S. law that means the House would have to prove it has been directly harmed.

Sources: The Fiscal Times; May 27, 2015; and Reuters; May 28, 2015.


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