The case of Halbig v. Sebelius was heard yesterday by a three judge panel of the DC Circuit Court. The issue in the case is whether the federal government can offer subsidies to individuals who purchase health insurance through the federal Obamacare exchange. The language of the law says the subsidies will only be available under exchanges set up by the states, so the Obama administration is clearly in violation.
The Washington Times has a report on what happened at the hearing, and one of the judges didn’t seem to be buying the administration’s arguments. He called the law an “unmitigated disaster” and “stupid,” and wondered why the courts should save it.
One judge called the Obamacare rollout an “unmitigated disaster” and said the administration is stretching to try to cover up for how poorly the law was written.
“I know there’s an absurdity principle, but is there a stupidity principle?” said Judge A. Raymond Randolph. “If the law is just stupid, I don’t think it’s up to the court to save it.” […]
If the court rules that residents are able to get tax credits only if they are part of state-run exchanges, many of the Americans who live in the 34 states where the federal government runs the exchange will be less likely to sign up. If they don’t sign up and choose to pay the tax penalty under the individual mandate, it could skew the economics underpinning the entire law.
“What you’re asking for is to destroy the individual mandate,” Judge Harry T. Edwards told the plaintiffs suing to stop the subsidies. “You kill this, you kill the individual mandate, and you gut the statute.”
Read the whole thing. Judge Edwards appeared to side with the administration while Judge Randolph sided with the plaintiffs, leaving Judge Thomas Griffith as the swing vote. The back and forth between Edwards and Randolph is interesting. Whatever they decide, I would imagine an appeal will be filed and this case will end up at the Supreme Court.