Fed­eral ap­peals court halts key case on health care.

Top Demo­crat says move can up­end health law

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

A fed­eral ap­peals court put a key Oba­macare case on hold Mon­day as judges be­gin to an­tic­i­pate a Pres­i­dent Trump, and move to give his ad­min­is­tra­tion the chance to change the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s le­gal strat­egy on ev­ery­thing from im­mi­gra­tion to health care.

The lat­est case is a land­mark chal­lenge brought by the U.S. House against the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, which was send­ing Oba­macare money to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies de­spite Congress specif­i­cally can­cel­ing the money in the an­nual ap­pro­pri­a­tions process.

The case is pend­ing in the U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia, and sev­eral sets of briefs are due over the next two months, but a three­judge panel is­sued a short or­der Mon­day putting the case in abeyance and ask­ing for up­dates to be filed a month af­ter Mr. Trump is sworn in.

He has promised a clean break from Pres­i­dent Obama on health care, say­ing he would move to re­peal the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act.

“The D.C. Cir­cuit wisely put this case on hold, rec­og­niz­ing that they may never have to re­solve this thorny con­sti­tu­tional ques­tion. Wait­ing one month will let the case go away af­ter the change in ad­min­is­tra­tions,” said Josh Black­man, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the South Texas Col­lege of Law.

He had pre­dicted that the ap­peals court judges would wel­come a chance to take a step back from the case, which presents thorny is­sues about what one cham­ber of Congress can do to stop a run­away ex­ec­u­tive branch.

But Democrats said the rul­ing paves the way for Mr. Trump to quickly un­ravel Oba­macare next year.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the sec­ond-rank­ing House Demo­crat, said all Mr. Trump would have to do is or­der his Jus­tice Depart­ment to stop de­fend­ing Oba­macare in this case, and the gov­ern­ment would have to stop pay­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, who would then pull out of Oba­macare, leav­ing cus­tomers with­out cov­er­age.

“It will be pos­si­ble for the next Pres­i­dent to sab­o­tage the ACA im­me­di­ately upon tak­ing of­fice with­out any ac­tion by Congress, up­end­ing the sta­bil­ity of health in­sur­ance mar­kets and elim­i­nat­ing sub­si­dies that en­able mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to af­ford health cov­er­age,” Mr. Hoyer said.

The case stemmed from a chal­lenge the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives filed against Mr. Obama’s Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment, which made Oba­macare pay­ments to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies de­spite Congress zero­ing the fund­ing out in its ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills.

A lower court sided with the House, rul­ing both that lawyers had stand­ing to sue and that the spend­ing was il­le­gal.

Mr. Obama had fought to keep the case on track, with his lawyers ar­gu­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies who are count­ing on the money could be con­fused, and might be scared away from par­tic­i­pat­ing in Oba­macare.

“The dis­trict court’s de­ci­sion thus threat­ens to ‘cre­ate un­ten­able busi­ness un­cer­tainty’ for in­sur­ers and sig­nif­i­cant harm to con­sumers,” the Jus­tice Depart­ment ar­gued in briefs filed last month.

The depart­ment de­clined to com­ment Mon­day on the lat­est le­gal blow.

The lower court judge’s rul­ing hasn’t gone into ef­fect yet, so lawyers for the House said there’s no more un­cer­tainty by de­lay­ing. Those lawyers also said there’s a high chance the case would be set­tled by a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that’s com­mit­ted to un­rav­el­ing Oba­macare, and mov­ing ahead now would only waste re­sources and time, since they’d have to rear­gue all the is­sues af­ter the Jan. 20 tran­si­tion of power.

The jump from an Obama White House to a Trump pres­i­dency could mark the big­gest break in pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion his­tory, with deep dif­fer­ences on nearly ev­ery ma­jor pub­lic pol­icy is­sue.

Mr. Trump has nom­i­nated Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, who op­posed many of the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies, to be his at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Obama lawyers had al­ready sig­naled sur­ren­der on im­mi­gra­tion cases, agree­ing to re­quests to put sev­eral ma­jor court bat­tles on hold to await a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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