For years, Democrats have ignored the Constitution in order to prop up Obamacare’s collapsing insurance exchanges. Now, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, wants to let them off the hook.
Brady recently encouraged Congress to continue making cost-sharing reduction payments to marketplace insurers. These subsidies reimburse coverage providers for reducing copays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients. And in all likelihood, the CSR payments, which total around $7 billion a year, are unconstitutional.
The only responsible course of action for Republicans is to end these subsidies right now, and get to work implementing a healthcare agenda that doesn’t rely on legally dubious insurer bailouts.
The Constitution clearly states that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” Unfortunately for Democrats, lawmakers never appropriated the money used to fund the CSR program.
When the Obama administration paid insurers anyway, House Republicans took the government to court — and won.
According to Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the reimbursements are indeed unlawful. Her order to end the payments is on hold pending appeal. The House and the Trump administration have since asked the court to postpone a ruling until August 20, to give them more time to hammer out an Obamacare replacement that makes the case a moot point.
But with the repeal effort facing uncertainty, Brady is now asking his fellow Republicans to give Democrats a pass by “temporarily and legally fund[ing] cost-sharing reduction payments” in order to stabilize Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.
That would be a mistake.
By appropriating yet more funds for the program, Republicans would in effect be pardoning Democrats for a flagrant constitutional violation that has already cost taxpayers billions of dollars. This would set the dangerous precedent that administrations are free to spend first and ask for Congressional forgiveness later.
Moreover, delaying the inevitable demise of the exchanges through CSR payments amounts to throwing good taxpayer money after bad. Letting the marketplaces collapse under their own weight, on the other hand, adds needed urgency to a GOP healthcare repeal and replacement effort that is in danger of stalling.