Can the president stop Affordable Care Act payments to insurance companies? Not ordinarily. Laws are carried out whether the president agrees with them or not. So why is the press saying he can?
Here’s why :
The ACA includes a cost-sharing provision authorizing subsidies to insurance companies. Without subsidies, insurance companies are likely to drop out, assistance for low-income people for co-pays and deductibles dries up, and costs for an average “silver” plan would go up about 20%.
When Republicans gained the House, they filed a lawsuit alleging the subsidies were illegal because Congress did not expressly appropriate the money. Democrats responded that appropriations were implied, and by passing the act, Congress agreed to the payments.
The U.S. District Court of D.C. sided with legislators (House of Representatives v. Burwell). The judge stayed her ruling and allowed payments while the Obama administration appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals.
With the case in legal limbo, the president can technically follow the decision of the lower court. He’s been stalling, deciding month by month whether to issue payments, but now Congress is heading into recess. If the president cuts off subsidies while they are out of session, there is little Congress can do about it.
So — yes, he does have the authority, if he chooses to exercise it.
On Aug. 1, a federal appeals panel ruled that 17 states and the District of Columbia can sue the federal government on behalf of consumers if the subsidies are cut off.
So — maybe he’ll think twice about “letting” Obamacare implode? Hang on to your premiums, fellow ACA insureds.