Obamacare | The Government's Takeover of Health Care
White House Changing Obamacare Rules for Territories
Created on Thursday, 31 July 2014 08:05
Written by Justin Credible
The Obama regime loves when attention is elsewhere. While Israel and Hamas are fighting and a Ukrainian airline was shot down, the White House used this is an opportunity to illegally change some of the rules of Obamacare for territories. HHS claims that residents in these territories have benefitted from all consumer protections of Obamacare, which of course have caused insurance rates to skyrocket. Now, HHS is once again illegally changing Obamacare.
From The Wall Street Journal:
The original House and Senate bills that became the Affordable Care Act included funding for insurance exchanges in these territories, as President Obama promised when as a Senator he campaigned in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other 2008 Democratic primaries. But the $14.5 billion in subsidies for the territories were dumped in 2010 as ballast when Democrats needed to claim the law reduced the deficit.
As a consolation, Democrats opened several public-health programs to the territories and bestowed most of ObamaCare's insurance regulations, which liberals euphemize as "consumer protections," such as requiring insurers to accept all comers and charge the same premiums regardless of patient health. "After a careful review of the law," said Health and Human Services in a 2012 letter, HHS granted the territories' request to apply these rules "to the maximum extent permitted by law."
These uneconomic mandates promptly caused insurance rates to soar and many insurers to flee the territorial markets. You can't buy any policy at any price in the Mariana Islands. So the territories have spent the last two years beseeching HHS for a regulatory exemption.
As recently as last year, HHS instructed the territories that they "have enjoyed the benefits of the applicable consumer protections" and HHS "has no legal authority to exclude the territories" from ObamaCare. HHS said the law adopted an explicit definition of "state" that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates and the public-health programs, and another explicit definition that excludes the territories for the purpose of the subsidies. Thus there is "no statutory authority . . . to selectively exempt the territories from certain provisions, unless specified by law."
Laws are made by Congress, but all of a sudden last week HHS discovered new powers after "a careful review of this situation and the relevant statutory language." For simplicity's sake, the territories will now be governed by the "state" definition that excludes the territories for both the subsidies and now the mandates too. But the old definition will still apply for the public-health spending, so the territories will get their selective exemption after all.
The White House seems to have an elastic definition of states. In the Halbig case in which a decision is expected any day from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr. Obama's lawyers say the phrase "the 50 states" includes the federal government. But most elastic is its definition of statutes, which apparently mean whatever Mr. Obama says they mean at any given moment. His new dispensation is great for the territories, but awful for the Constitution and rule of law.
Justin Credible is a contributing editor for Habledash.