Health care reform survives a lawsuit

New York TimesJanuary 18, 2014 

A long-shot lawsuit that could have damaged the effectiveness of health care reform got a well-deserved brushoff from a federal district judge Wednesday. The suit was brought with the help of conservative legal groups and cheered on by congressional Republicans eager to disable the Affordable Care Act.

The plaintiffs argued that the wording of the act allowed federal subsidies (in the form of tax credits) only for those buying insurance on the 14 health exchanges managed by a state, not on the exchanges established by the federal government in the 36 states that refused to set up their own. That contention was ridiculous on its face.

Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a Clinton appointee, dismissed the legal theory behind the lawsuit.

"The plain text of the statute, the statutory structure and the statutory purpose make clear that Congress intended to make premium tax credits available on both state-run and federally facilitated exchanges," Friedman said in his ruling.

The law, he notes, was designed to provide quality, affordable health care for "all" Americans, not just those buying insurance on state-run exchanges. Similar lawsuits are pending in Virginia, Oklahoma and Indiana.

The wording could have been further clarified long ago if Republicans had been willing to cooperate in minor changes to the health reform law instead of trying to repeal or disable it. Instead, they are continuing to wage partisan warfare on this issue and others.

The losing plaintiffs have vowed to appeal Friedman's decision. Although they won't give up, Friedman's well-reasoned decision deserves to be upheld.

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