State AGs fail to convince Judge Vince Chhabria that CSR cutoff will harm consumers.
When the White House announced that cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers selling coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges were illegal and would therefore be halted, President Trump was denounced by the Democrats as a loathsome saboteur bent on depriving low-income Americans of health care. As the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra phrased it:
Taking these legally required subsidies away from working families’ health plans and forcing them to choose between paying rent or their medical bills is completely reckless. This is sabotage, plain and simple.
This sanctimonious nonsense may have filled the breasts of Obamacare apologists with righteous indignation, but U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria evidently found it underwhelming. Becerra was joined by18 other Democrat AGs in a lawsuit, California v. Trump, filed in the Northern District of California for the purpose of forcing the Trump administration to pay the subsidies.
Today, in a 29-page ruling, Judge Chhabria sent them packing with a flea in their ear.
On Monday, the Judge presided over a 90-minute hearing in which he treated the attorney for the plaintiffs like a rather slow-witted toddler. Judge Chhabria, an Obama appointee, pointed out such inconvenient fact that nearly all of the states involved in the lawsuit had already ensured that the majority of enrollees would not be harmed by Trump’s decision to halt the payments:
The truth is that most state regulators have devised responses that give millions of lower-income people better health coverage options than they would otherwise have had… This is true in almost all the states joining this lawsuit.
His ruling on the case, which he clearly considered frivolous, concluded with this zinger:
If the states are so concerned that people will be scared away from the exchanges by the thought of higher premiums, perhaps they should stop yelling about higher premiums… perhaps the states should focus instead on communicating the message that they have devised a response to the CSR payment termination that will prevent harm to the large majority of people while in fact allowing millions of lower-income people to get a better deal on health insurance in 2018.
Not that this matters to the 19 AGs who forced Judge Chhabria to endure their preposterous claims about Trump’s “sabotage” of Obamacare. Their next step will no doubt be to appeal this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and we don’t need Nostradamus to predict how that will go. Meanwhile, more background on the saga of the CSR subsidies can be found here and here.