The Media Largely Ignored A Judge’s Ruling On Trump’s Ending of Obamacare Subsidy Payments

Carl Arbogast // Posted at 2:45 pm on October 31, 2017

Conservatives have long been critical of the mainstream press for bias and in different contexts. While much of the criticism focuses on the content and how they cover it, bias also exists in the amount of coverage the media provides for a particular issue. The subject of Donald Trump and his decision to end subsidy payments to insurance providers (in accordance with the law) is a textbook example of media bias by the breadth of coverage given to one side of the story and not the other.

When President Trump the announcement about stopping the subsidy payments, a media meltdown commenced. NPR blared a headline, “Trump Administration To End Obamacare Subsidies For The Poor” even though Medicaid covers the poor. Democrats were agog:

“It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” they said. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

Sabotage became the word the media was happy to latch on to and utilize. Naturally, it’s silly to say Trump following the law is “sabotaging” anything. A federal judge, the GAO, and the Congressional Research Service all concluded the law did not allow the executive branch to direct those payments because only Congress can appropriate the money.

It didn’t stop newspaper editorial boards from predicting doom and cable television hosts from gnashing their teeth about the move. Naturally, the Attorneys General from eighteen states all bandied together, threatening to sue the crap out of the administration without any media scrutiny over whether or not the states even had the standing to sue to force the payments.

The decision came down a week ago, but you’d barely know it. There wasn’t a media blackout, but if you search Google, you’ll find pretty much the same story reported across various media outlets six days from the publication of this post. It is remarkable because the judge who ruled against the states did not do so without chastising them: 

Judge Vince Chhabria of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, held oral arguments on the case Monday.

At oral arguments, Chhabria seemed extremely skeptical of the states’ claims, questioning whether they could show the “immediate” harm necessary for him to issue nationwide injunction. He also suggested that many of the states had fair warning and anticipated that the Trump administration might pull funding.

That same skepticism was evident in his 29-page opinion on Wednesday replete with stern words for the attorneys general who brought the case.

Why “have all these attorneys general rushed to court seeking an emergency ruling against President Trump?” the judge wondered at one point.
“State regulators have been working for months to prepare for the termination of these payments,” he wrote Wednesday. “And although you wouldn’t know it from reading the states’ papers in this lawsuit, the truth is that most state regulators have devised responses that give millions of lower-income people better health coverage options than they would otherwise have had.”

States like California, he said, had structured their 2018 rates in a way that would protect insurers and low-income individuals who received the subsidies.

He dismissed concerns that the Trump administration’s actions would confuse people and wondered whether the states should change the focus of their message.

The judge then gave them a smackdown:

“One last point on the issue of confusion,” Chhabria wrote. “If the states are so concerned that people will be scared away from the exchanges by the thought of higher premiums, perhaps they should stop yelling about higher premiums. With open enrollment just days away, perhaps the states should focus instead on communicating the message that they have devised a response to the CSR payment termination that will prevent harm to the large majority of people while in fact allowing millions of lower-income people to get a better deal on health insurance in 2018.”


However, there weren’t 10-figure panels on Don Lemon’s show discussing it. Morning Joe did not wail about it for two entire segments. Most cable news stations that spent days hammering the Trump administration for taking action and giving time to doofuses like California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to whine openly about it remained mostly silent about the ruling.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.