A federal judge on Thursday sided with House Republicans in a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act.
Judge Rosemary Collyer, a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, ruled that the administration has been improperly funding deductibles, co-pays and other means of cost-sharing for insurers under the Affordable Care Act. While the law appropriates funding for premium tax credits that help customers afford health insurance, it does not appropriate such funding, she said.
“Such an appropriation cannot be inferred,” the opinion says.
At issue is $175 billion that the administration planned to reimburse insurers with over a decade, starting in 2014. Republicans argued that the administration was illegally using the funds because they were not appropriated by Congress, while the administration argued that statutory provisions of the ACA authorized the expenditures.
The only requirement in the law regarding the reimbursements for insurers is that the law be funded annually, though Congress subsequently did not appropriate funds for those reimbursements, Collyer writes.
“Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the FY 2014 budget or since,” the opinion says. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
If the administration appeals the ruling, the court will stay its injunction, the opinion says.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he was confident in the legal arguments the administration has around the health care law. He declined to say whether the administration would appeal the decision, deferring to the Department of Justice for a formal announcement.
“These are the kinds of political disputes that characterize a democracy and it’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer funded lawsuit to refight a political fight that they keep losing,” Earnest said. “They’ve been losing this fight for 6 years, and they’ll lose it again.”
The health insurance lobby issued a statement that seemed confident there would be an appeal.
“There is a long judicial process ahead before a final decision is made,” she said in a statement. “Our members’ focus is and will remain on serving consumers — to ensure their coverage is protected and their health care choices are maintained.”
Former House Speaker John Boehner brought the lawsuit against the administration in November 2014.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the ruling was a “historic win for the Constitution and the American people,” and House Republicans praised the ruling in statements Thursday afternoon.
“This decision is a critical step in protecting Congress’s power of the purse from an Administration that has repeatedly ignored a fundamental principle of our Republic: the separation of powers,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said. “I am pleased that the court recognized the plain meaning of the Constitution and upheld the role of Congress in appropriating taxpayer dollars.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) called the ruling a victory. Upton and Brady subpoenaed documents on the insurer cost-savings program earlier this month.
“We received vindication of what we have known for quite some time — that the administration does not have the authority to spend over $150 billion for payments to insurance companies without an appropriation from Congress,” he said. “Today, the court’s message was clear: complying with Article I of the Constitution is not optional for President Obama.”