On Oct. 12, the Trump administration declared it will soon stop making federal cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurance companies, ending an illegal Obama-era policy and returning the Constitution to its rightful place as the supreme law of the U.S.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to subsidize the insurance purchased by lower-income households with incomes less than 250 percent below the federal poverty level. These cost-sharing reduction subsidies are made in addition to the federal subsidies given to those buying health insurance plans with incomes at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, and they only apply to "Silver" plans bought on an Obamacare exchange.
To offset the health insurers' losses, the ACA allows insurers to receive reimbursements from the federal government for their subsidies, but there's one big catch: As with many government programs, Congress must appropriate funds to pay for the cost-sharing reduction payments.
After Republicans gained control of Congress during President Barack Obama's administration, they decided not to continue funding the cost-sharing reduction payments as part of their effort to dismantle the failing Obamacare system. In 2014, facing rising prices and out-of-control costs, the Obama administration decided it didn't need Congress' appropriation and continued to make the cost-sharing payments to billion-dollar health insurance companies.
To combat the Obama administration's attack on the Constitution, the House of Representatives sued the executive branch, and in 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Congress, but allowed the payments to continue while the Obama administration processed its appeal. No higher court has since ruled on the case.
Shortly after taking office in January, Trump agreed to continue making the cost-sharing payments while Republicans in the House and Senate debated various plans to replace Obamacare, but after months of Congress coming up short, the Trump administration has taken the mission of ending Obamacare and restoring justice into its own hands — which it is doing in part by ending the cost-sharing payments.
Reports are now saying that Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have reached a deal to continue the payments for two years. Regardless of the merits of the payments, appropriating the funds through Congress is the right thing to do.
There is no doubt Obama acted illegally when he continued paying health insurers after Congress decided not to appropriate funds for that cause. The Constitution unequivocally declares, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," and as the Constitution makes perfectly clear, Congress, not the executive branch, makes the laws.
Trump's defense of the Constitution should be hailed by everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike. After all, if any presidential administration can pick and choose when it wants to ignore the Constitution, then we no longer have a republic. In fact, an immensely powerful centralized government making pronouncements in defiance of the people's elected representatives is the very definition of tyranny.
None of these facts, however, have stopped congressional Democrats and liberal media pundits from attacking President Trump's decision. In a joint statement, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said President Trump "apparently decided to punish the American people" and that the move "is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families."
What an outrageous and blatantly false claim! Defending the Constitution can never be "sabotage" or an attack on the people; the Constitution exists to ensure the people are protected from the same sort of overreaches the Obama administration routinely engaged in, including its decision to ignore the will of the people and fund a program against the mandates of Congress.
Trump deserves to be praised for standing up for the Constitution, liberty, and Americans' right to express their desires through free elections. If the Democrats and liberals now hurling insults and wretched, false attacks against the Trump administration for this decision were to reverse course and stand for liberty, the nation would be a much better and freer place!
Justin Haskins (@JustinTHaskins) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an executive editor at The Heartland Institute.
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