Win or Lose Halbig, Obamacare's Biggest Troubles are Still Ahead


To say that Obamacare enthusiasts are having a bad few weeks would be a major understatement. First, a three-judge panel at the DC Circuit Court ruled against them in Halbig vs. Sebelius, a lawsuit they called "stupid" and "criminal" for arguing that the subsidies that Uncle Sam was handing out through 36 federal exchanges violated the law. Then, videos surfaced showing that one of the law's key architect's — MIT's Jonathan Gruber — had gone around the country two years ago basically making Halbig's "stupid" and "criminal" argument, only to change his tune after the lawsuit was filed.

Meanwhile, liberal bloggers, who set out to destroy, once and for all, Halbig's argument, ended up confirming it. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post excavated Senate documents that he said proved — proved — that subsidies through federal exchanges were legitimate because they were contained in an earlier version of the bill — only to be

Shardayyy / Foter / Creative Commons

conspicuously dropped from the final law!

And yesterday our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of these subsidies before the full DC Circuit reverses the three-judge panel and the lower courts are still split, given that other Circuits have rejected Halbig's argument.

But the odds, I note, in my latest column at The Week, are that the politically squeamish Chief Justice Roberts won't accept the case. He'll let the issue be resolved at the lower court level instead of getting his hands dirty in a partisan mudfight.

That might mean the end of Halbig, but not the end of Obamacare's political troubles. "The program's biggest vulnerabilities are still down the road," I note. And that's no accident. The administration postponed implementation of the more painful aspects of the program till after the president is safely out of office — partly through the original law and partly by altering the law through executive fiat. Hence:

a postponed tsunami of discontent awaits ObamaCare, just around the time the president exits office, when union plans are hit with new taxes; insurance companies may require a bailout; appropriation battles get underway; providers confront massive cuts; hospitals suffer losses; employers face mandates; and patients, once again, revolt against sticker shock as they are forced to pay higher penalties or buy policies they don't want…

So, the Obamacare film will be at 11 every night for the forseeable future.

Go here to read the whole thing.