The next legal obstacle to Obamacare

Under Obamacare, those who don’t have health insurance coverage at work sign up for policies at online “exchanges.”  If their income level makes the policies too hard to afford, the government will offer subsidies to make up the difference.  There is a problem, though.  As the law is written, the subsidies are for people who signed up for a plan on an exchange “established by the state.”  Thirty-four states refused to set up the exchanges, which send applicants to a federal exchange.  Technically, applicants from those 34 states would not seem to be eligible for a subsidy.

But wait, you may say.  That is obviously just a technicality.  The clear intent of the law offers subsidies to everybody eligible.  Except that the legislative history of the bill shows good evidence that the “established by the state” language was put in precisely for the purpose of pressuring states to start their own exchanges.

Now this is being litigated, with several lawsuits against the IRS, which has been tasked with enforcing Obamacare.  (That is surely a misuse of that agency, but that’s what we get when the Supreme Court defines penalties and fines as “taxes.”)

But here is the point:  Even people who support some program that would provide universal healthcare should surely admit that Obamacare is not a very good way of reaching that goal, that the Affordable Care Act is too complicated, was poorly written, was passed too quickly without normal legislative scrutiny, and has too many unintended consequences. [Read more...]

Laws that try to cover everything

In a discussion of the struggling Immigration Reform Bill, George Will tells about the Compromise of 1850.  Henry Clay worked it out, but the bill that would implement it–dealing with scores of inter-related issues, such as limiting the spread of slavery, statehood for California, the mode of territorial government for Utah, what to do about fugitive slaves, and on and on–could never get passed.  It was up to Stephen Douglas, better known as Lincoln’s nemesis, to get the legislation through.   He broke the gargantuan bill apart into smaller bills, each of which found its own constituency, and each of which passed.

Mr. Wills says that part of the problem in our paralyzed government is that bills are just too long.  They try to cover everything.  Which is a symptom of a government that thinks it knows everything. [Read more...]


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