The Obama administration has been catching some flak over its intent to redirect taxpayer dollars toward a controversial “risk corridor” program designed to bailout ObamaCare-friendly health insurance companies that lose too much money.
The primary line of attack stems from the absence of any specific congressional appropriations to fund the program. Congressional Republicans and the Government Accountability Office say this precludes any end-run maneuvers to pay for it anyway, while the Obama administration is ignoring opposition.
But in the drive to add this abuse of executive discretion to President Barack Obama’s long list of power grabs, a bit of history is sure to make Republican critics think twice before pushing much farther.
“But Loren Adler, research director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, points out that a similar risk-protection program in the Medicare prescription drug program does not receive an explicit annual appropriation, yet has not been challenged,” reports an entry on the Modern Health Care blog. “He thinks that makes it highly unlikely that HHS will be deterred from making the payments to insurers under the risk corridors program.”
Indeed, any federal judge reviewing a future legal challenge to HHS’ pending move would very likely analogize the two programs and conclude that if Congress has not objected to the practice in one instance, and the two cases are similar, it probably intended to defer on both. In such a scenario, the end result is a judge (rightly) telling Congress to speak more clearly and fix the law.
The upshot of all this is that it makes everyone painfully aware of how important it is for Congress to pass clear laws. Republicans aren’t responsible for ObamaCare’s poor draftsmanship, but if they ever get enough power to make changes, they should take care to make them unambiguous to interpret.