Monday, July 6, 2015
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Inside Washington

What happens in the halls of national government – for better or for worse – can dictate the future course of America. Along with your fellow Prayer Team members, you are to be constantly and fervently interceding for all the men and women who serve in Congress, for your military leaders in the Pentagon, and for the President of the United States, his cabinet and administration.

“Inside Washington” will equip you to do just that … with reports on the nation’s leaders and the decisions they’re considering … or have already made. We’ll examine the implications for the nation, and call you to specific prayer for those needs.

War of Words Escalates

Inside Washington

Obamacare hinged on a mere four words

By Dr. Tom Askew

Nearly overshadowed in the overwhelming public response to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) was the other blockbuster ruling last week by the nation’s highest court: King v. Burwell. For those less familiar with what this decision was about, here is a brief summary:

King v. Burwell was a federal lawsuit challenging a regulation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sixteen states and the District of Columbia set up locally operated exchanges where consumers could purchase health insurance in compliance with the new law. According to the original text of the ACA, these consumers received subsidies from federal funds in order to afford the insurance, provided they fell within certain income guidelines.

In the remaining thirty-four states which did not set up local exchanges, federally operated exchanges were available to provide coverage for applicants. It is estimated that the number of Americans who are insured through federal exchanges in these states is about 8.2 million.

The four controversial words

In the original text of the ACA, the IRS approved subsidies were said to apply to exchanges “established by the state.” The argument in King v. Burwell was that residents of the 34 states without locally established exchanges do not qualify for federal subsidies because their insurance was not purchased from an exchange “established by the state,” as the wording of the law says.

The Supreme Court’s decision, delivered on June 25, held that the subsidies are available under both federally-run and state-run exchanges. In the words of the Court, “the wording ‘…established by the State…’ was superfluous when read within ‘the broader structure of the Act.””

Aftermath of the decision

In one sense the Court simply said that, regardless of what the regulation actually says, “business as usual” should continue. Some pundits have remarked that Congress had better pay attention to what its legislation actually says from now on.

It is certain that had the Court ruled otherwise, the ACA as it now stands would have been threatened with collapse. The burden on insurance companies would have increased immediately, causing some companies to go under financially, while many individuals in the 34 “federally administered” states could not have afforded to continue their coverage without the subsidy.

Those who have opposed the ACA all along believed this to be a good thing. But it is not a hysterical scenario to say that lives would have been lost in hospitals turning patients away who could no longer be considered “insured” without the federal subsidy. Even those most ardently opposed to the ACA would admit that would be an unfortunate way to correct a Congressional mistake. In the words of The National Review’s Ed Whelan, “The ultimate battle against Obamacare can and will continue, and it must be won politically and legislatively.”

Potentially lost in the stampede of federal overreach epitomized in the gay marriage decision is a subtle nuance of the King v. Burwell case. In effect, this case was decided by the IRS itself, who made the regulatory decision that the legislative provision for subsidy applied to those insured in both kinds of “states.” Giving what some consider to be the most rogue governmental agency (the IRS) even more deference ought to be worrisome to somebody.

How shall you pray?

Both the gay marriage decision and the ACA ruling underscore the philosophical relativism of postmodern times. When the established meanings of words can be re-oriented in the court of public opinion, even a two hundred-year-old Constitution can be re-interpreted to say things it does not say, much less a 2000 page document which the legislators who voted in favor of it admittedly did [not] read themselves.

Arguing over the exact meaning of words can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When the serpent tempted Eve, his very first question was, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) From that time forward, debates have raged over things that should be plainly understood: “Do not eat the fruit of this tree.”

As you pray for the future of this nation, pray that:

Dr. Tom Askew has been an educator in both public and private schools for over 40 years, in both the U.S. and overseas. He is currently doing educational consulting and instruction for Christian schools in Arizona.

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