AP and Others in Media Ignore Illegality of Now-Halted ObamaCare Subsidy Payments

October 15th, 2017 9:36 PM

There's a lot of competition for this dubious distinction, but the media's treatment of President Donald Trump's decision to end certain Obamacare subsidy payments to insurance companies is perhaps the most blatant example of comprehensive bias on a single topic seen during the past week.

Apparently, the press realizes that acknowledging how Trump's justification for ending the subsidies is airtight on a legal and constitutional basis would force them to admit that the Obama administration's payment of those subsidies for several years was illegal — and we can't have that. The worst offender in this regard was the Associated Press.

Because of its gatekeeping position in the establishment press, the AP had the greatest responsibility to explain this matter forthrightly. Instead, in the case of its national coverage, AP writers made it appear as if Trump was relying on the ruling of one judge who they clearly wished readers to see as an outlier. In the case of its reports on state actions to try to force the Trump administration to resume these payments, AP reporters generally failed to even mention the existence of court rulings and the constitutional-separation of powers issues involved.

Friday's national AP dispatches, mostly written and revised by notoriously biased reporters Alan Fram and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, focused almost entirely on how allegedly "disruptive" Trump's move would be. Showing how brazenly unfair and unbalanced they are, the pair even claimed that Trump, after waiting over eight months for congressional action when he could have done what he did on January 21, somehow "relished" the move.

Only now, after years of downplaying the impact of frightening annual rate increases in Obamacare plan premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, and sharply reduced availability of carriers and plans, are AP reporters expressing meaningful concern about these matters. Why? Because they believe they can tie them to Trump.

Fram's and Alonso-Zaldivar's Friday evening missive seen at ABCnews.com typifies this approach. Pay special attention to the final of the four excerpted paragraphs below (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Trump's blow to 'Obamacare' jolts health consumers, politics

President Donald Trump's abrupt move to cut off federal payments to insurers jolted America's health care and political worlds alike on Friday, threatening to boost premiums for millions, disrupt insurance markets and shove Republicans into a renewed civil war over their efforts to shred "Obamacare."

Defiant Democrats, convinced they have important leverage, promised to press for a bipartisan deal to restore the money by year's end. That drive could split the GOP. On one side: pragmatists seeking to avoid political damage from hurting consumers. On the other: conservatives demanding a major weakening of the Affordable Care Act as the price for returning the money.

... The money goes to companies for lowering out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles for low- and middle-income customers. It will cost about $7 billion this year and help more than 6 million people.

Ending the payments would affect insurers because President Barack Obama's law requires them to reduce their poorer customers' costs. Carriers are likely to recoup the lost money by increasing 2018 premiums for people buying their own health insurance policies.

Notice how the AP reporters have now decided that the Affordable Care Act is now "Barack Obama's law." What a switch. During the past four years, as problems with Obamacare's rollout, its state exchanges, its co-ops, and the participating insurance plans multiplied, the press did all it could to keep Obama's name out of reports covering these accumulating disasters.

The final excerpted paragraph above shows that the Trump's action will not have the dire impact on lower-income people that most reports are pretending it will. Instead, people above the income thresholds for receiving subsidies, many of whom have seen their premiums double and triple in just four years, could — not necessarily will, as will be seen shortly — get socked even harder this time around.

As to the issue of legality, the AP pair would only admit the following in their fifteenth paragraph:

A federal judge has found that Congress never properly approved the payments.

Oh, that? The Constitution says the executive branch can't spend money without specific congressional authorization. President Obama didn't have it, but illegally ordered his Treasury Department to make the payments anyway.

At least the two AP reporters admitted that the courts have been involved since Congress sued to stop these payments three years ago. Other subsequent AP reports on how many states are suing to have the payments resume, including one filed by reporter Adam Beam Saturday morning, have not mentioned prior congressional and court actions to stop these payments at all.

But wait a minute. Beam's report also indicates that his wire service's national reporters, at least in regards to the Bluegrass State, don't have their facts straight. That's because Trump's action will not cause an additional layer of increases in expected premiums:

... While rates for individual health insurance plans sold on the federal exchange in Kentucky will increase next year, the state Department of Insurance says it won’t be because of Trump’s decision. That’s because when state officials approved those rate requests earlier this year, they assumed the cost-sharing-reduction payments would be eliminated.

“The Department does not anticipate any necessary action to change rates or the availability of plans,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn.

In other words, states which expected Trump to return to the rule of law instead of Barack Obama's presidential dictates by pen and phone aren't affected.

Many very good explanations of the situation have appeared at center-right media outlets like Investors Business Daily ("On ObamaCare, Trump Is Being Attacked For Upholding The Law").

Andrew McCarthy's take at National Review is particularly compelling, both in explaining why Trump really had to do what he did, and how utterly mendacious the press has been in reporting on it (italics are his):

Trump Faithfully Executes Obamacare; Media, Democrats Go Nuts

... the press is aghast that his “fake news” tropes against mainstream-media stalwarts resonate with much of the country. Well, if you want to know why, this latest Obamacare coverage is why. What Trump has actually done is end the illegal payoffs without which insurance companies have no rational choice but to jack up premiums or flee the Obamacare exchanges. The culprits here are the charlatans who gave us Obamacare. To portray Trump as the bad guy is not merely fake news. It’s an out-and-out lie.

... The subsidy payments to insurance companies may be “critical” to sustaining the ACA, but they are not provided for in the ACA. The Obamacare law did not appropriate them. No legislation appropriates them. They are and have always been illegal.

... The media-Democrat narrative that President Trump is imperiously flouting the rule of law has it backwards. In cutting off the insurance-company subsidies, Trump is enforcing the ACA as written, consistent with his constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully. It was President Obama who usurped Congress’s power of the purse by directing the payment of taxpayer funds that lawmakers had not appropriated.

Near its end, the IBD editorial referenced earlier added the following exclamation point describing the left's and the press's hypocrisy: "... the same people who claimed that Trump craved dictatorial powers are now infuriated that's he's handing authority back to Congress."

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.