The Affordable Care Act is in trouble again. A three-judge panel of a D. C. appeals court has ruled that the IRS can't give tax-credit subsidies to people in the 36 states where "Obamacare" is operated by the federal government. The reason is in the ACA itself. It authorizes the IRS to provide tax credits to people who acquire health insurance through "an exchange established by the state." The two-judge majority, ruling in favor of a set of libertarian litigants, interprets this language to mean "an exchange established by one of the states of the union." Therefore, when the IRS authorized tax credits for people who use exchanges regardless of state or federal origin, it went beyond its legal mandate.
This is another ha-ha moment for Obamacare foes. They've complained from the start that legislators approved the ACA without reading the entire massive text, and today's ruling appears to prove the foolishness of such an approach. From an early point, however, the government was aware of the "glitch" in the language, but by that time Republicans in the House of Representatives were blocking efforts to amend the ACA in a helpful way. It became simply a matter of time before partisan or ideological litigants found a like-minded court or panel -- though in the present case the Obama administration is expected to appeal so that the case is heard by the full court, which is supposed to have a liberal majority thanks to several Obama appointees. If the full court overturns today's ruling, in which the majority were George W. Bush appointees, it'll be role-reversal time; Republicans will complain about partisan bias in the court while Democrats will claim objective vindication of their policies.
One is tempted to say, "Only in America." Elsewhere, I'd like to think, "the state" would be synonymous with "the nation" or "the government in its entirety." Here, however, that sort of thing is "statism," while "states' rights" as against the federal government are still largely held sacred. The ambiguity of the word "state" is one of the pitfalls of federalism into which the ACA apparently has stumbled. It was dumb of the drafters not to realize this, but it's just as dumb of this country that such a "glitch" could have costly consequences for so many people.