Michigan AG Schuette seeks to raise taxes, deny health insurance to citizens


By joining an anti-ACA lawsuit, Michigan panders to Tea Party extremists at the expense of the middle class.

It’s no secret that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Republicans detest the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They’ve done everything they can to discredit or dismantle the law known as Obamacare, out of disdain for President Obama and what they consider “his” big government overreach.

What has been a secret, however, is the fact that Schuette has joined a federal lawsuit that could cost Michiganders millions of dollars in tax credits available to purchase health insurance. The Detroit Free Press broke the story on Friday.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the plaintiffs in the Halbig v. Sebelius lawsuit
“argue that tax credits are legally available only to consumers in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.”

The plaintiffs contend that states like Michigan, which rely on the federally run Healthcare.gov exchange because their legislatures refused to set up a state-run exchange, are not eligible for these tax credits. How convenient for AG Schuette and Michigan Republicans, who fought against setting up a state-run exchange that even Governor Rick Snyder claimed to support at the time. Now that he’s letting Schuette do the dirty work on this lawsuit, though, it’s unclear if Gov. Snyder ever really wanted a state-run exchange in the first place. It’s easy to look like a moderate by supporting something that’s never actually going to happen.

In fact, I would maintain this has been the long game of states that refused to set up their own exchanges: Come back to challenge the law over the phrase regarding tax credits based on the price of plans available “through an Exchange established by the State.”

Based on a written statement from AG Schuette spokesperson Joy Yearout, we’re in for more of the same rhetoric we’ve been hearing out of the ACA’s opponents from day one:

The Obama administration is wreaking havoc on citizens, job-providers and states by abusing executive authority to implement a poorly written law. Attorney General Schuette will fight at every turn to rein in this unrestrained expansion of federal authority.

After the news broke, Mark Totten, candidate for Michigan Attorney General, issued a statement that said, in part:

On Feb. 6, Schuette asked a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. to deny a half-million Michigan families nearly $5,000 in annual federal tax relief to help them buy health insurance — even though families in other states would continue to receive these federal dollars. If Schuette wins, Michigan families would pay $2.5 billion more each year in federal taxes than other states — money that could be spent in local stores and helping Michigan’s economic recovery. …

‘Schuette’s attempt to please the far right of his party by saddling a half-million working families with nearly $5,000 more a year in taxes is outrageous and wrong. Clearly the health law has problems, but we don’t fix it by raising taxes on Michigan families. Governor Snyder should immediately make clear that Schuette does not speak for the state.’

Fortunately, the odds of the plaintiffs winning this lawsuit are slim. From the Detroit Free Press:

A federal court judge rejected the Halbig lawsuit last month, saying the intent of the law was to make tax credits available in all states. The plaintiffs — several self-employed individuals and some businesses from a half-dozen states — have appealed to the circuit court in Washington, where oral arguments are scheduled for March 25.

Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, has watched the developments of the Affordable Care Act and has blogged several times on the lawsuit. Complainants face an uphill battle, in part, because courts most often rule in favor of governments when there is ambiguity in the language of a law, he said.

For that reason, the complainants would have to go a legal step further, convincing the courts that the law isn’t ambiguous — rather, that it clearly prohibits consumers from getting tax credits if they purchase insurance on a federally operated exchange, such as the Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace.

The likelihood of winning that argument, he said, ‘is low.’

A “low” likelihood doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And if the plaintiffs were to win this lawsuit, what then? Would Michigan citizens have to give back the tax credits they already received? How many would have to go without health insurance because partisan politics cut the legs out from under the ACA in Michigan?

Let’s hope we never have to answer those questions. But let’s remember this as yet one more example that Michigan Republicans — including Gov. Snyder, who is silent on this issue so far — are not looking out for the best interests of Michigan citizens. They’re only concerned about their big-money donors and corporate backers, while trying every trick in the book to make Michiganders think they’re looking out for them.

I’m not fooled. You shouldn’t be, either.

[Image credit: Chris Savage | Eclectablog]