A Republican senator had no grounds to sue the Obama administration over how it interpreted the part of Obamacare that forces members of Congress to get their health care insurance through the law's new exchanges, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he was disappointed in the outcome of his legal challenge, which argued the administration provided lawmakers and their staffs with illegal preferential treatment when it decided it would still dole out employer-based subsidies to help them pay their monthly premiums. A provision of the president's 2010 health law required members of Congress and key staffers to get their insurance coverage through the exchanges.
Mr. Johnson said ordinary Americans in the Obamacare marketplace will not enjoy those benefits and must qualify for less-generous income-based subsidies.
But first he had to prove he was harmed by the rules. On Monday, Judge William C. Griesbach said the lawmaker failed to meet that test.
"I conclude that any injury traceable to the contested regulation is too speculative and undeveloped to constitute a redressable injury," the judge wrote in an order to dismiss the case.
Mr. Johnson filed his suit against the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that last year said members of Congress and their staffs could keep subsidies that paid for up to 75 percent of their premiums — even though they must pick health care plans from the state-based marketplaces.
Even some Republicans have questioned the lawsuit and called it an "unfortunate political stunt."
But Mr. Johnson insisted Monday the administration's actions are part of a larger narrative, and will convince most Americans that Washington is "out of control, out of touch and lawless."
"I believe that this executive action by the Obama administration is unlawful and unfair, and that it is only one of many examples of this president's abuse of his constitutional duty," he said. "Unfortunately, those actions will go unchallenged for now, because the district court granted the administration's motion to dismiss based on the legal technicality of standing."
The lawsuit is one of a number of challenges to President Obama's health care law that are still making their way through the courts, following last month's Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling striking down the administration's mandate that closely held for-profit companies' insurance policies must cover the costs of their female employees' contraceptives.
The health care overhaul survived the main challenge to its existence in 2012, when the justices upheld its "individual mandate" under Congress' taxing authority. But it wasn't the final word on the law, and remaining challenges — if successful — could still be fatal to Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement.
The lesser-known lawsuits challenge the legal and practical underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act, ranging from whether the bill was properly written in Congress to whether the administration can pay subsidies even to states that refused to set up their own exchanges.
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