Since its inception, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare as it is commonly referred, has been dying a slow death.
Last week that death process may have sped up.
In two separate rulings, federal appellate courts in the 4th and D.C. Circuits handed down conflicting rulings on whether the government can issue subsidies for health insurance premiums to those people participating in exchanges set up by the federal government.
Exchanges are Web sites, or virtual marketplaces if you will, where Americans can shop for health insurance plans that are offered through Obamacare. The plans on the Web site meet the minimum standards of Obamacare and give consumers the opportunity to compare the plans and calculate the federal subsidies that would be available to help pay for each particular plan.
States were given the option of setting up their own exchanges or having the federal government set up the exchanges for them. Georgia, along with 35 other states, chose not to participate in setting up a state exchange and therefore the federal government set up the exchange.
In order to entice states to set up their own exchanges that would be more specific to each state and the needs of their citizens, it was made clear that the federal subsidies to help pay for the insurance plans would be available in exchanges set up by the states.
In fact, in the IRS code addressing state exchanges set up under Obamacare, the availability of subsidies to consumers to help pay for insurance plans is mentioned no fewer than six times.
In a separate IRS code section addressing federal exchanges set up in states that chose not to set up their own, the availability of subsidies to help pay for insurance plans is never mentioned.
Therein lies the basis of the conflicting rulings last week by the appellate courts.
In Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the language in Obamacare should be interpreted to mean that subsidies can only be offered to those states that set up their own exchanges.
This ruling was widely seen as a major setback to the Obama administration since it meant that they had illegally provided subsidies to citizens in the 36 states, including Georgia, that have federally-run exchanges.
Meanwhile, the 4th Circuit, in King v. Burwell, ruled that subsidies were understood and intended to be used in all exchanges, regardless of whether they were run by the states or federal government.
This ruling, of course, was hailed by the Obama administration who said that it was always understood that the subsidies would be available to all consumers regardless of who ran the exchanges.
Many, including myself, see right through this smokescreen and recognize that the intentions of the administration all along were to entice the states to set up their own exchanges by offering the subsidies only to state-run exchanges.
Having failed miserably at doing this — as can be witnessed by the 36 states that chose not to set up state run exchanges — the administration now claims to have always intended for the subsidies — a key and vital component of Obamacare — to be available through all exchanges.
Although it is expected that the Obama administration will try legal maneuvers to avoid it, it appears that for the third time yet another part of this disastrous public policy, along with its constitutionality and mandated birth control coverage, will go before the Supreme Court for a final decision.
Quite simply, if the Supreme Court rules against the subsidies being available in the federally-run exchanges, the overpriced, excessive coverage insurance plans included in Obamacare will cause this house of cards to collapse under its own weight.
If this scenario plays out, the Obama administration would have no other choice but to go back to Congress to try and fix this problem. Could the third time before the Supreme Court be the charm?
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.