Obama Administration Argues To Dismiss Several ACA Lawsuits
The Obama administration in the past week has argued that the delay of the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate means several lawsuits against the ACA should be dismissed, arguing that plaintiffs cannot sue yet because the law is not fully developed, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 7/8).
Last week, the administration announced that it will postpone the ACA's employer mandate for one year to address concerns about its reporting requirements (California Healthline, 7/3).
Following the announcement, Department of Justice attorney Alisa Klein filed a motion with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that a lawsuit filed by Liberty University against the ACA should be dismissed. She wrote, "This one-year delay only underscores that Liberty University’s challenge is unripe." On Monday, administration officials followed up with a second filing that contended the university is no longer entitled to an expedited briefing aimed at settling the lawsuit before the end of the year.
Attorneys for Liberty University said that their case should not be dismissed because the administration's motion fails to address another component of Liberty's lawsuit challenging the ACA requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage for employees. Mathew Staver -- an attorney representing Liberty -- noted that HHS last month published a final rule regarding the contraceptive coverage regulations, making "clear the government has no intention of altering" it.
In a separate case filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), the administration has requested the suit be dismissed, arguing that the delay "underscores that Oklahoma has not pleaded, and could not plead, that it [faces] impending injury from the large employer tax" (Washington Times, 7/8).
GOP Lawmakers Argue White House 'Playing Politics' With ACA Delays
On Monday, several GOP lawmakers accused President Obama of using the delay to help Democratic candidates get through the 2014 election cycle without having to field complaints from businesses discontent with the employer mandate, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said on the House floor, "The president is playing politics with the American people's health care." Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) echoed those complaints, noting that the delaying the employer mandate "just puts it off to a more politically convenient time, beyond the 2014 midterm elections." Pitts also argued that the delay broke the ACA, since "[t]here's no waiver procedure in the bill" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/8).
Experts Concerned Delay Might Encourage Falsified Tax Reports
In related news, health policy experts have voiced concern that a delay to the income verification process for the ACA's health insurance exchanges could lead to fraud, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/8).
In a final rule published Friday, the administration said it will roll back requirements for state and federal health insurance exchanges to verify the income and insurance status of people applying for coverage until 2015 (California Healthline, 7/8).
Critics of the delay say it could lead to residents in states that have decided not to expand Medicaid under the ACA to overstate their income in order to become eligible for subsidized private insurance through the exchanges.
Health care analyst Avik Roy explained in his Forbes column, "Effectively, states no longer need to expand Medicaid, because this newly Medicaid-eligible population can now sign up for the exchanges, at no cost to the state, and know that their incomes won't be verified by the IRS (because their incomes are too low to file tax returns)."
However, Harold Pollack -- an economist at the "Incidental Economist" blog -- observed that while some people might falsify their tax statements, the issue does not "seem massively concerning" because the prevalence of such behavior can be determined through "random audits and statistical analyses." He added, "If it's widespread, the IRS will need to impose tighter requirements." Pollack also noted that people would also be deterred from over-reporting their income because doing so might incur higher taxes and make them ineligible for other government programs ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/8).
Ryan Asks CBO for New ACA Cost
In related news, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) this week asked the Congressional Budget Office to recalculate the ACA's cost based on the new employer mandate delay, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. Ryan spokesperson William Allison said that Ryan wants to know "the impact of the administration's recent decisions" on the law's overall costs (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/8).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.