TIME Health Care

Report: Cost of HealthCare.Gov Approaching $1 Billion

Marketplace guide Jim Prim works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website as he helps a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at an enrollment event in Milford, Delaware on March 27, 2014.
Marketplace guide Jim Prim works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website as he helps a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at an enrollment event in Milford, Delaware on March 27, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

GAO Report places cost overrun blame squarely on the shoulders of the federal government

Federal officials badly managed the development of a website to sell health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, potentially costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, according to testimony that will be delivered to a House subcommittee on Thursday.

In prepared remarks posted online Wednesday, William T. Woods, an official at the General Accounting Office, says HealthCare.gov, a federal website charged with managing new individual health plans for consumers in 36 states, was marred by inadequate oversight by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an HHS agency in charge of the insurance website, “undertook the development of HealthCare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices, despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight,” according to Woods.

Details of Woods’ testimony were first reported by the Associated Press. The GAO conducted its investigation of HealthCare.gov at the request of the Investigations and Oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As became obvious in the days and weeks after HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1, 2013, the website was hobbled by technical problems and software glitches that prevented consumers from signing up for health plans until a repair effort was undertaken months later. The episode was a significant embarrassment for the Obama Administration, which had promised buying health plans through the website would be akin to purchasing any other goods or services on the Internet. Contractors charged with building HealthCare.gov and a data hub meant to verify identities, eligibility and income used to calculate federal subsidies had not completed their work by the time the site launched, according to Woods’ testimony. But the GAO placed blame on federal officials for not anticipating problems that would occur and for incurring significant cost increases as well as improperly approving additional spending.

According to Woods’ testimony, the cost of building one part of HealthCare.gov increased from $56 million to more than $209 million between September 2011 and February 2014. Expenses for the associated data hub ballooned from $30 million to $85 million. Woods says that by March 2014, CMS reported “obligating $840 million for the development of HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems.”

Federal officials, according to Woods, delayed assessing whether HealthCare.gov was ready for launch from March 2013 to September 2013, noting that this was just weeks before the site went live. Software experts have said in the months since HealthCare.gov launched and crashed that such a short window is far too narrow to evaluate a brand new, complex system like a new national website to sell health insurance and dole out federal subsidies to those who qualify.

As it became clear that the building of HealthCare.gov was not going smoothly, Woods says federal officials approved additional expenditures to contractors, including CGI Federal, the lead company hired to build the website. The GAO, he says, found approximately 40 instances in which CMS employees approved additional spending totaling $30 million.

“This is not to say the work was not necessary,” says Woods, “however, the work was not approved properly.”

As HealthCare.gov’s launch approached and CMS officials had the chance to withhold major funds from contractors, they chose not to. To save HealthCare.gov after its failed launch, HHS hired the firm Accenture to continue work on the website. But that contract, too, has cost far more than planned. According to Woods’ testimony, the $91 million contract awarded to Accenture in January 2014 increased to $175 million by June 5.

Eventually, HealthCare.gov was repaired and some 8 million Americans signed up for health plans through the website by the spring of 2014.

MONEY Obamacare

The Real Reason Obamacare Is Now In Trouble

Tangle of colored wires
PM Images—Getty Images

Here's why we're still arguing over how the health care law is supposed to work.

The legal struggles over health care reform have taken yet another odd turn.

Last week a decision by a federal appeals courts put into doubt a key feature of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. In particular it ruled that residents in the 36 states that have not set up their own insurance “exchanges” aren’t eligible for tax credits when they buy coverage. Those credits are crucial to making the law work because they make insurance plans affordable. (The ruling may not stand; another court the same day made the opposite call.)

I wrote at the time that the court’s reading of the intent of the law seemed implausible. Why would Congress have allowed states to so easily opt out of such a hard-fought law? And why did no one mention this at the time? The theory that Congress meant for the law to work this way seemed to be news to everyone until Obamacare opponents came up with it for the lawsuit.

However, late last week opponents of Obamacare found video of a prominent, well-connected Obamacare adviser, M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber, saying that states should really set up exchanges because otherwise their residents wouldn’t get the federal money. Those remarks (and these too) were in 2012, two years after the law passed but before the court case. Gruber says his remarks were a mistake.

What Gruber said in 2012 doesn’t really prove much about what Congress was thinking in 2010. (More here from Vox.com’s Sarah Kliff on how none of this came up during the actual debate). But I have to admit, it’s somewhat harder to argue that the D.C. circuit’s reading is a craaaaazy idea because, well, one architect of the law apparently once understood it that way, too.

That said, let’s look beyond the controversy of the moment, and even beyond the ACA, at the real reason Democrats have found themselves in this tight spot: Congress tried to squeeze a big social program through the tax code. No wonder things got complicated.

Remember what people were talking about in 2010? It was mandatemandatemandate. Tax credits and subsidies weren’t much on the minds of anyone but real health care wonks. Yet they are essential to making the ACA what it really is: A social insurance program, not unlike Social Security or Medicare, that raises some taxes (chiefly Medicare taxes on higher earners) to pay for a safety net for low and middle-income people.

But the subsidies are indirect: Instead of having a public insurance program, we have money running through private insurance. Which runs through state-run exchanges. Or sometimes federal exchanges. Through which run tax credits via the IRS. With another chunk of money going through states via the the Medicaid system.

That complexity is why the Healthcare.gov roll-out was such a mess. It’s why the Supreme Court has already reduced the law’s reach by striking down part of its Medicaid provision, allowing some states to opt-out of coverage for many low-income people. And it’s why it now matters so much how a judge chooses to interpret the language of section 1311(d)(1) of the legislation.

But of course the ACA isn’t the only example of the government using indirect means to put money into people’s pockets to achieve a social goal. There’s the Earned Income Tax Credit, an important anti-poverty program. But there’s also lots for the middle-class (and above): Medicare drug plans administered by private companies, longstanding tax incentives for employers to offer health insurance, and the 529 tax break for college savings. And, for homeowners, of course, the mortgage interest deduction.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler calls these partly hidden benefits the “submerged state.” The government is still spending money–it’s just not always obvious how. Such programs have become become the center of gravity in the Washington’s approach to domestic spending. Republicans frequently try to make direct spending programs less direct. (Think Mitt Romney’s plan to turn Medicare into something like a voucher to buy coverage.) And Democrats proposing new programs go the indirect route. (Obamacare is basically a voucher to buy coverage.)

This has political advantage for both sides. Conservatives like that it leaves people less attached to the idea that government can help them, because the programs are harder to see, even if the money going to constituents is real. Liberals like that indirect programs are a lot easier to get passed.

The cost, though, is that indirect programs are hard to design well. They create a lot of complexity for users—these programs are a big part of why doing your taxes is such a pain. And they sometimes fail to get dollars where they are most needed.

That doesn’t mean indirect programs aren’t worth doing—the Affordable Care Act has achieved one of its key goals by adding millions to the insurance rolls. But if the D.C. circuit decision prevails (I’m still guessing it won’t) supporters of health-care reform are going to need to do some rethinking. They might consider pushing something like Medicare, except for people under 65. That wouldn’t be an easy political argument to win, of course. But at least you wouldn’t have to be a wonk to understand how it works.

TIME Barack Obama

Poll: One Third of Americans Want Obama Impeached

President Barack Obama in Colorado
President Barack Obama RJ Sangosti—Denver Post/Getty Images

But solid majority would oppose a move sought by some conservatives

Roughly a third of adult Americans want to see President Barack Obama impeached, according to a new CNN poll released Friday.

Support for impeachment cuts down party lines, with 57% of Republicans favoring the idea but just 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats feeling similarly.

The poll comes a day after the House Rules Committee approved Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the President over part of his signature health care law. Some conservatives, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have gone a step further than the lawsuit, calling for Obama’s impeachment.

The solid majority of Americans who oppose impeaching the president is similar to previous years, CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. In 1998, 67% of Americans opposed impeaching President Bill Clinton and 69% opposed impeaching George W. Bush in 2006.

The poll surveyed 1, 012 adult Americans between July 18-20 with a 3% margin of error.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 23

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Jerusalem to focus on securing a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas; the 'specific missile' that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; courts issue rulings on Obamacare subsidies; Honduras' president told to expect U.S. deportations on "massive scale"; David Perdue wins Senate GOP runoff primary; ethics concerns in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

  • “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday there have been ‘steps forward’ in the diplomacy aimed at ending the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as he arrived in Jerusalem for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli officials.” [WSJ]
    • “The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, challenged critics of his country’s military operation in Gaza Tuesday morning, saying they don’t understand the legal definition of ‘proportionality’ in wartime.” [TIME]
    • How to Break Hamas’ Stranglehold on Gaza [WashPost/David Ignatius]
  • “U.S. intelligence resources tracked the ‘specific missile’ that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a senior Administration official said Tuesday, saying intelligence adds up to a picture that ‘implicates Russia’ in helping to bring down the plane.” [TIME]
  • “On Tuesday, two federal courts issued rulings on President Obama’s health care law. Here’s what you need to know about how the rulings affect you…” [TIME]
  • “Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been warned by U.S. officials to expect a enormous wave of deportations from the United States, he told TIME in an interview at the presidential palace in the Honduran capital on July 17. ‘They have said they want to send them on a massive scale,’ he said.” [TIME]
  • Businessman David Perdue won Georgia’s Senate GOP runoff primary against Rep. Jack Kingston with less than 51% of the vote on Tuesday. Perdue now faces Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, in the fall. [TIME]
    • Battleground Georgia: Democrats See 2014 Flip [Politico]
  • What if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Loses? [Politico]
  • Cuomo’s Office Hobbled State Ethic Inquiries [NYT]
MONEY Health Care

4 Really Weird Things About the Latest Obamacare Ruling

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks out next to Vice President Joseph Biden
Obama's signature health-care law faces a new court challenge. Larry Downing—Reuters

An appeals court says Congress must have meant to make the health care law even more complicated than we thought.

Today two separate appeals courts handed down decisions on challenges to the Affordable Care Act, known popularly as Obamacare. One of those courts, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, ruled that the federal government can’t provide insurance premium subsidies to people in states that haven’t set up their own insurance exchanges. The other court rejected that argument.

The D.C. circuit’s opinion, which would invalidate the subsidies paid to about 5 million people, will be a huge, huge deal if it holds up. Much of the early debate and legal wrangling over the ACA focused on the “individual mandate,” the part of law that fines you if you don’t have health coverage. But the subsidies are even more important because they make the required coverage affordable for moderate- to middle-income families. (The subsidies are available to a family of four earning up to $95,400.) The law says you don’t have to pay the fine if insurance isn’t affordable, so without the subsidies the mandate doesn’t apply to so many people.

The ruling could very well be overturned on appeal, and in the meantime the subsidies remain in place. (You can read more on what happens next in this report by Time’s Kate Pickert.) But as a reporter who has covered health care reform closely since the George W. Bush administration, I have to say this ruling just doesn’t make much sense to me. In particular, four very odd things stand out.

1. The court’s interpretation seems implausible.

Quick background: Obamacare subsidies are issued when you buy insurance on an online marketplace called an exchange. Some states set up their own exchanges, but 36 states didn’t, leaving the federal government to do the job instead. The D.C. Circuit ruled that the law authorizes the subsidies to be paid only through state-run exchanges.

This ruling hinges on a close reading of the law, a purported effort to figure out what Congress truly intended. The government, defending Obamacare, argued that because the law can’t work without the premium subsidies, Congress must have meant them to apply regardless of who ran the exchange.

But the court offered another theory: Maybe Congress meant the subsidies to be an incentive for states to set up their own exchanges.

That sounds like a implausibly flexible approach to what was meant to be a sweeping national health care law. After all, it essentially gives any state whose governor or legislature opposes the ACA a chance to opt out of some its biggest provisions—not just the subsidies, but the individual mandate, too.

Cast your mind back to the debate in 2009 and 2010. What I remember was conservatives denying the ACA a single Republican vote and arguing that Democrats would brook no compromise. Democrats, meanwhile, were pointing out that Obamacare looked a lot like the Massachusetts law signed by Republican governor Mitt Romney.

It seems to me that in a long argument over whether Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Max Baucus were tyrants, or just sweetly reasonable splitters-of-the-difference, someone might have said: “Hey, if Republican-led states don’t like the individual mandate, they can always opt out of the exchanges.”

That did not happen.

2. If the ruling stands, this messes up the insurance markets in 36 states.

If there are no subsidies, that doesn’t only mean that many people won’t get help from the government to buy coverage. Even those who didn’t get the subsidies in the first place could face higher prices.

That’s because the law requires the exchanges to sell insurance to everyone who applies, charge them the same rates (based on age) regardless of health, and offer a minimum package of benefits. The problem is that if you don’t have to buy insurance, many people will do so only when they know they need coverage—i.e., when they are sick. And if too few healthy people and too many sick people sign up, insurers have to raise prices to cover the costs. That then means you have to really sick to want to sign up, and that jacks up rates more, and so on. This is known in insurance as adverse selection, or a “death spiral.”

So the federal exchanges could stop working pretty quickly if this ruling stands. In fact, according to the briefs filed by the insurance industry and a group of economists who support the ACA, the adverse selection problem in the exchanges could spill over into the market for private individual plans outside the exchange too, since the law links the two markets in various way. How this would actually play out is unclear, but suffice it say, it’s a major rug-pulling.

Setting up federal exchanges that can’t work seems pretty dumb. Now, as Michael Cannon of the libertarian Cato Institute says, it’s not like lawmakers never make bad laws. States have tried to regulate insurance coverage the way the ACA does, without subsidies, and they’ve run into all these adverse selection problems. The thing is, people in Washington knew this when the ACA was being debated and written. It’s why the subsidies and the individual mandate—a wildly controversial, politically costly provision that many members of Congress wished would go away—were in the law in the first place.

3. This somehow involves the Northern Mariana Islands.

The D.C. Circuit panel notes that the ACA in fact did trigger the “death spiral” problem in this U.S. overseas territory in the Pacific. That’s because the Northern Mariana Islands were subject to the new rules about health coverage but left out of the subsidies. That, says the court, means that maybe Congress really could have meant to regulate the insurance market without subsidizing it too.

I can think of some other reasons why Congress might have klutzed up the part the law that applies to U.S. territories. Like the fact that people in those places have no voting representation in Congress.

4. Congress really isn’t very good at crafting laws

I don’t mean it’s not good at making laws (views may vary on that). I’m talking about the actual writing-it-down part. The court’s lead opinion is devastating in showing how badly written parts of the law are. If these were comments from the professor in a course titled “Lawmaking 101: Making a Bill a Law,” you’d expect to see a big fat red “D” at the bottom of Congress’ term paper. The bill was pushed through hastily after Republican Scott Brown unexpectedly won the late Ted Kennedy’s seat in the Senate, depriving the Democrats of a filibuster-proof majority. The craziness of the legislative process shows in the text.

But its not just a craft problem. The legal vulnerability of the ACA goes hand-in-hand with how politically vulnerable it is. The law makes sense in a basic way and seems to be helping more people get coverage. And polls say people like many of the provisions of the law. But it is also complicated, and hinges on many different players (states, employers, private insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, you and me…) interacting in predictable and not-so-predictable ways. From the beginning, many people have really struggled to get how the law fits together. Turns out that may have included some people in Congress.

MONEY Health Care

Court Ruling Puts a Key Provision of Obamacare in Doubt—For Now

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks out next to Vice President Joseph Biden.
Today's D.C. court ruling dealt a blow to Obama's signature legislative achievement, while another set of judges backed the president. Larry Downing—Reuters

A federal appeals court has struck down the premium subsidies offered on the federal insurance exchange, potentially undermining a major provision of the law and raising costs for millions of Americans. With another court upholding the law, more court battles lie ahead.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit threw the fate of an important part of the Affordable Care Act into doubt Tuesday. In a 2-1 decision in Halbig v. Burwell, the judges ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. That could put at immediate risk the millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where these online insurance marketplaces are run by the federal government.

“Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on the Exchanges ‘established by the state,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation,” said the decision by Judge Thomas Griffith.

Meanwhile, just an hour later, another three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., came to the opposite conclusion—upholding the federal subsidies.
“It is therefore clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act’s primary goals and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill,” said the decision written by Judge Roger Gregory.

The Obama administration said it will appeal the Halbig decision. The Justice Department will ask the entire appeals court panel to review the decision, and that panel is dominated by judges appointed by Democrats, 7-4. The issue is also in other courts around the country.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “There’s a lot of high-minded case law that’s applied here. There’s also an element of common sense that should be applied as well, which is that you don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace.”

‘’We believe that this decision is incorrect, inconsistent with Congressional intent, different from previous rulings, and at odds with the goal of the law: to make health care affordable no matter where people live. The government will therefore immediately seek further review of the court’s decision,” said a statement from the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling wouldn’t take effect right away. “The court’s rules are that it doesn’t happen for 45 days,” to give the government time to ask for a full en banc hearing, “or 7 days after the en banc hearing has been denied.”

Should the decision eventually stand, however, it could mean at least five million Americans would face an average premium increase of 76%, according to a projection done by the consulting firm Avalere Health.

The court said that the wording of the health law “plainly makes subsidies available only on Exchanges established by states,” and that the legislative history of the bill “provides little indication one way or the other of congressional intent.”

But Judge A. Raymond Randolph offered a strong dissent. “It makes little sense to think that Congress would have imposed so substantial a condition in such an oblique and circuitous manner.”

The case could end up in the Supreme Court.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

TIME Health Care

What the New Obamacare Court Decisions Mean for You

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before signing the H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. during an event in the Eisonhower Executive Building, July 22, 2014 in Washington, DC.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before signing the H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. during an event in the Eisonhower Executive Building, July 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Two federal courts, two conflicted rulings. What does it all mean?

On Tuesday, two federal courts issued rulings on President Obama’s healthcare law. Here’s what you need to know about how the rulings affect you:

What did the courts say?

A panel in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not allow the federal government to distribute insurance subsidies through a federal exchange being used in 36 states. Many states declined to set up their own insurance exchanges, forcing the federal government to set up its own central exchange where subsidized plans are sold. The D.C. court said that only people living in those states with their own exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies, due to ambiguities in the language of the ACA.

But in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, judges reached the opposite conclusion. That panel ruled that the federal government does have the authority to hand out insurance subsidies through the federal exchange, and always intended subsidies to be available to any eligible individual in the U.S., regardless of who is running the exchange.

What happens next?

The federal government will appeal the D.C. court ruling and plaintiffs in the identical case in the Fourth Circuit will also likely appeal. The issue is likely to remain unsettled for many months.

What does this mean for Americans currently getting insurance through the ACA?

Nothing yet. With conflicting rulings on the same day and appeals certain, the status quo will remain in place — for now.

But if the D.C. ruling ends up being upheld and the Fourth Circuit overturned, the consequences would be immense. By 2016, more than 7 million people are set to receive ACA insurance subsidies through the federal exchange at the center of each of Tuesday’s rulings. These subsidies are now under threat, and could disappear in those 36 states if the D.C. ruling is upheld on appeal.

Without subsidies, millions in those states could see their insurance premiums go up dramatically. The ACA requires most Americans to have health insurance but only if they can afford it. Without subsidies, coverage for millions would become unaffordable. Removing these people from the health insurance pool could destabilize premiums for everyone else.

What would that mean for Obamacare?

It would be a hammer blow, if the D.C. ruling stands. The government would no longer be able to distribute insurance subsidies in those 36 states, unless those states opted to set up their own exchanges. That would be unlikely, since many of the states that declined to set up exchanges did so in protest at the ACA. The subsidy system is a central feature of Obamacare and Democrats’ plan to expand insurance coverage to low- and middle-income Americans.

Opponents of the law have sued over the ACA before. What makes this case different?

A ruling that threatens to strip insurance subsidies from millions of Americans is the most significant threat to Obamacare since it overcame the challenge to its constitutionality in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 — though that same ruling made its Medicaid expansion optional and not mandatory, blocking millions of low-income Americans from coverage. Legal arguments made against Obamacare since have not struck at the heart of the law’s goal of expanding coverage. The recent Hobby Lobby lawsuit, for example, only affected contraception coverage for some employer health plans.

TIME Health Care

Studies Show Obamacare is Reducing the Ranks of Uninsured

Ronnie Cabrera, Dailem Delombard and Maylin Lezcano holding Lucas Cabrera sit with an insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they try to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the kiosk setup at the Mall of Americas on January 15, 2014 in Miami.
People buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the Mall of Americas on Jan. 15, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Data for Democrats to tout ahead of midterm elections

A growing body of research indicates that the number of American adults who lack health insurance has dropped sharply, by about eight million, since the health care reform law’s individual mandate went into effect early this year.

Three independent studies from the Commonwealth Fund, Gallup, and the Urban Institute recently found that roughly a quarter of people who were uninsured last year now have health insurance.

The proportion of people without insurance dropped across all income groups and ethnicities. But the largest declines were seen among the poor and Latinos, for whom the uninsured rate plummeted from 36% in the summer of 2013 to 23% by the spring of 2014, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In its survey of 45,000 U.S. adults, Gallup found that the uninsured rate for Americans over 18 has fallen to 13.4%, the lowest level since the group began tracking the metric in 2008. The previous low point was 14.4% in the third quarter of that year.

The drop in the ranks of the uninsured marks a significant step toward the President Barack Obama’s goal of universal health insurance coverage in the U.S. and will be welcome news to Democrats heading into the 2014 midterm elections. Campaigning against Obamacare has been central to the GOP’s election-year strategy and Republicans have hammered Democrats over the Affordable Care Act’s initially rocky rollout.

But the news is unlikely to soften Republican opposition to the law. The GOP-controlled House is already moving forward with a lawsuit against the President over his decision to delay implementation of the so-called employer mandate, a key provision of the law that requires companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance. Some in the GOP have accused the President of unilaterally delaying implementation of the measure to avoid hurting Democrats going into the midterm elections.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 11

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Palestinian death toll nears 100; Nigerian schoolgirls; Border crisis; House Republicans to sue Obama over ACA employer mandate delay; Congress moves to save Highway Trust Fund; Berkeley to give free marijuana to the poor

  • Palestinian Death Toll Nears 100 as Hamas Promises More Attacks on Israel [NYT]
    • “Mr Netanyahu’s mistake—compounded by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians on the West Bank—is to think that their versions of normality can be sustained simply by managing the conflict. A stand-off is always liable to tip into violence.” [Economist]
  • How to bring back the Nigerian schoolgirls, three months on [New Yorker]
  • “Thousands of children from Central America are undertaking a perilous journey to the U.S. border despite warnings from the U.S. that they will be sent back. In fact, many will get to stay.” [WSJ]
    • Obama, Senate Democrats Clash Over How to Handle the Border Crisis [Hill]
    • “Immigration officials and Border Patrol agents will run out of money if Congress doesn’t approve emergency funds to deal with the flood of young migrants at the southwest border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told senators Thursday.” [L.A. Times]
  • “House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.” [TIME]
    • “The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured.” [Politico]
  • “Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to save the country’s main highway fund, but differences in plans from the House and Senate are likely to spur a congressional showdown in the coming weeks.” [TIME]
  • “The Bear is Loose”: Is Obama Breaking Free or Running Away? [WashPost]
  • Don’t Laugh: Berkeley Plans to Give Free Marijuana to the Poor [NYT]
TIME Congress

Boehner: House Will Sue President Over Obamacare Employer Mandate

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 10, 2014. Joshua Roberts—Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner says says the suit is based on the fact that Obama revised the Affordable Care Act mandate without approval from Congress

House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.

The decision gave companies with at least 50 full-time employees an extra year to provide health insurance or face a fine. Earlier this year, the Administration delayed the mandate until 2016 for companies employing between 50 and 99 workers.

“Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate,” wrote Boehner in a public statement. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Democrats immediately ridiculed the measure as a political stunt.

“Instead of working to create jobs, instead of working to strengthen the middle class or addressing any of the urgent issues facing our nation, Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars on another toxic partisan stunt,” wrote Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a public statement. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction.”

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