In King v. Burwell, four Virginia residents are a challenging an IRS Obamacare rule in the Supreme Court. While the case involves only a handful of plaintiffs, it is really about the millions of Americans who are victims of Obamacare's mandates and penalties.
Like the King plaintiffs, millions are harmed by Obamacare's individual mandate, which forces them to either buy insurance that they don't want or to pay a tax penalty. But the IRS rule also has devastating consequences for countless other Americans and their families.
The victims include workers who have lost their jobs or have been pushed into part-time employment; individuals who lost their health plans and doctors despite White House promises to the contrary; and those whose insurance premiums and taxes are rising due to Obamacare.
If the King plaintiffs win, many of these people, who live in states that chose not to set up their own insurance exchanges, would be protected from these harms.
The specific issue before the court is whether this IRS rule is valid. That rule gives insurance subsidies, paid by taxpayers, to every state in the country. Congress, however, only authorized those subsidies for states that choose to set up their own insurance exchanges. At this point, at least 34 states have rejected that choice.
The IRS rule raises a basic issue that goes far beyond Obamacare: Do agencies have to follow the laws enacted by Congress, or can they rewrite them? The IRS claims that it's merely following congressional intent, but what it's really doing is torturing statutory language.
That violates the Constitution's separation of powers, under which Congress makes the law and agencies implement it. And to the extent the IRS gets away with it, we'll all be victims.
As for the legal standing of our plaintiffs, some have questioned it, but this is a non-issue in the case.
The Justice Department challenged the plaintiffs' standing in two different courts, and it lost each time. And at the Supreme Court stage, the government expressly conceded the standing issue. No surprise there.