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Congressional Republicans are celebrating a win in the latest Obamacare court battle after a federal judge ruled Thursday that the implementation of a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
Judge Rosemary Collyer, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that the federal government cannot reimburse private insurance companies for reductions they’re required to make to their insurance plans to make them affordable to low-income Americans because the funds for those reimbursements were not appropriated by Congress, The Hill reports.
“Congress authorized reduced cost-sharing but did not appropriate monies for it,” Collyer, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said in her 38-page ruling. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
Collyer said the Obama administration has already spent billions of dollars on cost-sharing reimbursements to private health insurers since that portion of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law went into effect in January 2014, Reuters reported.
“This is an historic win for the Constitution and the American people,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “The court ruled that the administration overreached by spending taxpayer money without approval from the people’s representatives.”
The White House said it didn’t need an appropriation from Congress for the cost-sharing because the reimbursement funds were already guaranteed by the ACA, The Hill reports.
Collyer called the administration’s arguments unpersuasive.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was dismissive of the judge’s ruling and criticized Republicans for continuing to fight a losing battle.
“This is not the first time that we’ve seen opponents of the Affordable Care Act go through the motions to try to win this political fight in the court system,” Earnest said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to re-fight a political fight that they keep losing. They’ve been fighting this fight for six years, and they’ll lose it again.”
Collyer put her ruling on hold pending a likely appeal from the Obama administration.
In other Obamacare news, health insurer Aetna announced it plans to continue selling insurance plans on ACA health insurance exchanges in the 15 states where it now participates, The Wall Street Journal reports. The insurer said it may expand to other states as well.
Meanwhile, citing continued hits to its bottom line, UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, said in April that it’s withdrawing from all but a “handful” of the 34 state insurance marketplaces where it currently operates.
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