Federal Judge Says House GOP’s ACA Lawsuit Can Move Forward
A federal judge on Monday denied the Department of Justice's request to place on hold House Republicans' lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's power to change the Affordable Care Act while DOJ appeals an earlier decision that ruled the House has standing to pursue the case, the Washington Times reports.
The ruling means the court can weigh the merits of the case while DOJ appeals the earlier ruling on standing (Howell, Washington Times, 10/19).
The suit, authorized by House lawmakers in July 2014, contends that Congress never authorized the Department of Treasury's payments to insurers for cost-sharing reductions to help low-income consumers pay for out-of-pocket costs such as coinsurance, copayments and deductibles.
The administration had asked the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that House GOP members themselves were not harmed by the executive action and, therefore, did not have standing to sue. In addition, administration lawyers said that House Republicans' argument is based on speculation that the executive action would significantly harm the separation of powers.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that the House has legal standing to file suit against the administration and pursue claims that the administration's actions violated the Constitution.
The administration appealed the decision and requested that the lawsuit be placed on hold while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviews the standing issue. House Republicans accused the administration of trying to delay the lawsuit until after the contended change takes effect.
While the case likely would not greatly affect the ACA, some consumers' out-of-pocket spending could increase sharply if the cost-sharing subsidies are invalidated (California Healthline, 9/22).
In her latest ruling, Collyer denied the administration's request to immediately appeal her ruling on standing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Instead, Collyer said that the court should first rule on the substance of the case, which would take "a matter of months" to settle (Sullivan, The Hill, 10/19).
According to Collyer, allowing the administration to plead its case to the appellate courts before the case proceeds would not expedite its termination because she is scheduled to deliver a summary judgment on the case's merits within a few months, following briefings and oral arguments. Collyer wrote in the order, "The relevant question is whether immediate appeal would materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation," adding, "In this case, it would not" (Washington Times, 10/19).
Further, Collyer noted that the appeals court would "be best served by reviewing a complete record" of both a ruling on the standing issue and a ruling on the merits of the case.
Collyer set a final deadline of Jan. 18 for filings on the substance of the case (The Hill, 10/19). She will then schedule oral arguments for the suit (Washington Times, 10/19).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "The court has previously ruled that the House does, in fact, have standing to challenge one of the president's unilateral actions with regard to Obamacare," adding, "Today's ruling further underscores that point and ensures that the District Court will hear the merits of the case this fall."
Katie Hill, a spokesperson for the administration, in a statement said, "The House lawsuit undermines centuries of historical practice and the fundamental principles of our system of democratic government." She added, "We are confident that the courts ultimately will dismiss this taxpayer-funded political stunt, which would make health care more expensive for millions of Americans" (The Hill, 10/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.