A federal judge on Thursday sided with U.S. House in its challenge to the funding of an Affordable Care Act program that reduced costs for consumers, proving, according to presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, that Republicans are seeking "new ways to make health care unaffordable."
"Congress authorized reduced cost-sharing but did not appropriate monies for it," federal district Judge Rosemary Collyer, a George W. Bush-appointee, said in her ruling. "Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one."
The Hill offers the background on the case:
At issue are billions of dollars paid to insurance companies participating in ObamaCare so they can reduce customers' out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles for low-income people.
The House GOP argued that the administration was unconstitutionally spending money on these payments without Congress's approval.
But the administration said it did not need an appropriation from Congress because the funds were already guaranteed by the healthcare reform law in the same section as its better-known tax credits that help people pay for coverage.
Politico notes, "The ruling, if it stands, could be a significant financial setback for the millions of low-income Americans who benefit from the cost-sharing subsidies, which help people pay for out-of-pocket costs like co-pays at the doctor's office."
USA Today adds that these "Cost-sharing subsidies reduce consumers' insurance payments — an important feature of the Affordable Care Act, because deductibles are rising. Under the law, subsidies are available to people who earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, with extra assistance available for those up to 250%. For a family of four, that's about $24,000 to $61,000."
While House Speaker Paul Ryan saw the ruling as a "win" for the American people, Sen. Sanders spoke to the financial reality it could mean in a nation without a Medicare-for-all system. "At a time when the United States is the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all Americans — and 29 million people still lack insurance — it would be a disaster to throw millions of low-income Americans off health insurance," he said.
Republicans "have tried time and time again to take health care away from the 20 million newly insured Americans," Sanders added. "We should be talking about how to make health care a right for all Americans, not finding new ways to make health care unaffordable."
The ruling, the Los Angeles Times reports, "though a setback for the administration, was put on hold immediately and stands a good chance of being overturned on appeal."