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Tags: supreme | court | epa | obamacare

Supreme Court Could Alter Obamacare, EPA

Larry Bell By Monday, 19 January 2015 08:27 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Two high court rulings this year may potentially alter the paths of Obamacare and EPA regulatory authority in significant ways.

Early this year, most likely in March, the court will hear arguments on whether or not the Obama administration has legal authority grant tax subsidies through health insurance exchanges established by the federal government. The law’s actual wording states otherwise — namely that subsidies are to be available only “through an exchange established by the state.”

If the court rules that the law means what is says, 36 states which don’t offer exchanges would be forced to rapidly create them to prevent as many as 5 million low-to-modest-income people from losing subsidies.

Although a negative finding wouldn’t cause those individuals and families to lose insurance coverage, it would open the door wide for a newly reconstituted Congress “do-over” which offers health plan alternatives.

In such an event we can safely bet that there will be bipartisan support for alternatives that provide safety nets to those who would otherwise lose subsidies along with remedies for others of the 86 percent who were thrown onto exchanges because their private coverage didn’t comply with the costly so-called “Affordable” Care Act (ACA) mandates.

No national plan that mandates extravagant one-size-fits-all coverage for everyone and a complex mountain of regulations that suffocate private competition will ever deliver quality affordable care. Accordingly, any real ACA improvements must offer consumers flexible benefit structures that enable consumers to select policies best fitted to their priorities and pocketbooks.

While how best to accomplish this remains an open question, prominent GOP strategies would make it possible to purchase less comprehensive policies; would ditch individual mandates; would dump age-ratings that benefit older citizens at the expense of young adults; and would move away from a guarantee enabling anyone to remain uninsured one year without facing higher rates the next.

A plan proposed by GOP Sens. Richard Burr, Tom Coburn and Orrin Hatch would automatically enroll those eligible but who don’t sign up for subsidies into catastrophic-level plans with high deductibles that cost no more than the subsidy.

Another more broadly-supported option would provide refundable tax credits rather than direct subsidies to help uninsured get affordable coverage.

Other controversy surrounds the matter of how much subsidy or other support is most fair and warranted. Some strategies favor a scale that works to level the field between those eligible for employer coverage and others who purchase via the individual market.

Obama’s signature war on coal will also face an important high court battle, where the outcome could influence EPA’s ability to push forward on other regulatory agendas as well.

Somewhat surprisingly to many, the Supreme Court has accepted several challenges brought by the utility industry and a coalition of nearly two dozen states agreed to review the EPA’s first-ever standards requiring power plants to reduce mercury emissions and other pollutants.

The court finding will determine if the EPA should have considered costs their requirements will impose before issuing them. The power companies and states project an added $9.6 billion annual compliance burden.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a lead state plaintiff in the case, charges that “The EPA has expressly refused to consider the cost of its regulation, which will result in rate increases for citizens across the country, and threatens the reliability of the electricity grid by forcing the closure of many power plants.”

A ruling that forces the EPA to weigh cost impacts of its rulings can have implications impacting a variety of other planned regulatory agendas. Included are separately proposed carbon emission restrictions for new and existing power plants, along with a tighter national ground-level ozone standard.

Although the Clean Air Act used to issue pollution limits specifically says the agency can only consider what best science says, not what it costs to get there, Justice Antonin Scalia noted regarding that the law does provide for cost considerations in other areas of implementing such rules.

Explaining this, he wrote that public health costs of a tight ozone standard may also “offset the health gains achieved in cleaning the air — for example, by closing down whole industries and thereby impoverishing the workers and consumers dependent upon those industries.”

It’s only realistic to observe that while the high court’s decision to accept the mercury case in its latest in a series of environmental lawsuits is encouraging, the EPA has won more often than lost. An EPA victory last year, for example, revived a program that sought to limit pollutant emissions blowing across state lines.

In any case, whatever the ruling, one public health impact is inevitable. As with Obamacare, it will leave a deep and lasting influence upon our nation’s economic well-being.

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Two high court rulings this year may potentially alter the paths of Obamacare and EPA regulatory authority in significant ways.
supreme, court, epa, obamacare
Monday, 19 January 2015 08:27 AM
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