OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Courts split on O-Care subsidies

ObamaCare’s premium subsidies were put at risk Tuesday as two appeals courts delivered conflicting rulings about whether they are legal in 36 states.

In the first decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling in Halbig v. Burwell that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not permit the IRS to distribute premium subsidies in the federal ObamaCare exchange, meaning those consumers must bear more of the cost of their insurance.

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Hours later, a separate appeals court in Richmond, Va., came to a far different conclusion in King v. Burwell, ruling that the IRS had the discretion to issue subsidies given "ambiguity" in the language of the law.

The contradictory rulings could fast-track the case to the Supreme Court, setting up a major legal showdown that conservatives believe could deal a fatal blow to President Obama’s healthcare law. 

The Obama administration quickly signaled it would appeal the D.C. appeals court ruling to the full D.C. Circuit, where seven of the 11 judges are Democratic appointees. If the ruling against the subsidies is overturned, the plaintiffs vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. Read more: http://bit.ly/1wVCqCc.

  

Judge tosses senator’s O-Care suit: A federal judge in Wisconsin threw out Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) lawsuit challenging an Obama administration rule that allows congressional staffers to continue to receive healthcare subsidies when signing up for ObamaCare.

Judge William Griesbach did not rule on the merits of the case, instead dismissing the challenge because Johnson and another staffer on the lawsuit lacked standing because they were not concretely injured by the regulation.

The judge, appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, said not all disputes warrant a remedy by federal court.

In the absence of injury, the judge warned standing cannot be based on a plaintiff's own subjective views. That would create "the kind of super-legislature specifically rejected by the Founders,” he wrote.

Johnson sued the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in January over congressional staff guidance it issued in regard to ObamaCare. Forty-five other Republicans signed a friend of the court brief in support. Read more: http://bit.ly/1nS4HUN.

  

Employers say no to auto-enrollment: Major businesses want to overturn an ObamaCare provision that requires large employers to enroll workers automatically into a health insurance program if they don’t sign up on their own.

Businesses including 7-Eleven, Lowe’s, Petco Animal Supplies and White Castle wrote to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on Tuesday supporting his bill to overturn the mandate they call too much of an administrative burden.

Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with 200 or more employees are required to enroll workers into a healthcare plan automatically starting next year if they don’t sign up for one on their own after 90 days of employment and fail to decline insurance.

Supporters of Isakson’s bill say the provision would be an “administrative nightmare” and could force workers into healthcare plans that “does not fit their specific health needs,” or isn’t accepted by their doctors. Read more: http://bit.ly/1yYctER.

 

CDC warns of ‘post-antibiotic’ era: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the government needs to take immediate action before we live in a world where life-saving antibiotics are no longer effective.

“Every day we delay it becomes harder and more expensive to fix this problem,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden Tuesday.

Frieden says the healthcare system needs to improve how it detects patients with drug-resistant infections, controls the spread of such infections, prevents them from happening in the first place and incentivizes drugmakers to develop new antibiotics.

“We talk about the pre-antibiotic era and the antibiotic era, if we’re not careful we will soon be in the post-antibiotic era,” he said. “And in fact for some patients and some pathogens we’re already there.”

The CDC is launching a new system this week that lets hospitals track all the antibiotics dispensed and look at real-time patterns of antibiotic resistance so doctors can narrow down which antibiotics are most likely to work. Read more http://bit.ly/1sMW2KZ.

  

Tuesday’s schedule:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is marking up a number of healthcare related bills including more funding for muscular dystrophy research.

The House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee is holding a hearing on ObamaCare’s tax credit verification system.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding another hearing in its 21st Century Cures series, this time focusing on personalized medicine.

Reps. Hank Johnson, (D-Ga.), and G.K. Butterfield, (D-N.C.) are holding a news conference to announce the creation of the State Medicaid Expansion Caucus.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will co-host a telephone call for journalists with Medicare advocates to talk about negotiating down prices of specialty drugs.

  

State by state

Delaware impact of Obamacare rulings: http://delonline.us/1nkcmiB

If Obamacare ruling stands, Georgia's insurance premiums could rise 95 percent: http://bit.ly/UqKwpK

Ind. gov stands by not creating state health exchange: http://bit.ly/1jU3cuc

Fourth bacterial infection death reported at S.C. hospital: http://read.bi/1pCez7I

New Chikungunya virus case in Mississippi: http://bit.ly/1nc3mwI

  

Lobbying registration:

Armitage Consulting, LLC/ mCapitol Management, Inc. (on behalf Ecolab)           

Armitage Consulting, LLC/ mCapitol Management, Inc. (on behalf of Spectrum P.A. & Robert Bosch LLC)

Bose Public Affairs Group/ Parkview Health Systems

Brown Rudnick LLP/ Exela Holdings, LLC

  

Reading list:

CDC says to announce safety advisory panel by end of week: http://reut.rs/Wz4Qqy

The impact of today’s Obamacare ruling — in four maps: http://wapo.st/1rzix5P

CDC director would consider new agency to regulate pathogens: http://bloom.bg/1yYpy0S

Nominee for VA secretary commits to reform embattled agency: http://bit.ly/1rpVRn4 

 

What you might have missed at The Hill:

Hoyer: Court ignores Congress’s intent: http://bit.ly/1qyOX0E

CDC reviewing lab access to health hazards: http://bit.ly/1ls2jUH

Second court disagrees, upholds subsidies: http://bit.ly/1ryEDpd