March 6, 2015
The Supreme Court is once again in the midst of a great debate over Obama’s health care legislation, hearing the case King V. Burwell.
This is the third time so-called Obamacare has faced down the Supreme Court’s gavel, with the challenges having become progressively more obscure with each showing. This time around, conservative and libertarian think tanks have taken legal issue with a handful of words buried within the Affordable Care Act.
What’s on the line? Millions of enrollees from as many as 36 states could lose the health coverage subsidies they have received via the Affordable Care Act.
What are the odds the challenge will go through? According to USA Today, a hearing on Wednesday saw that of the nine judges, the four typically liberal ones appear skeptical over the issue, while on the other hand reports indicate that the typically conservative four judges seemed pleased at the premise of the argument. Justice Kennedy will likely, as has often been the case in the past, be the swing vote.
So what exactly is the argument? Plaintiffs are attempting to demonstrate that the words “an exchange established by the state”, which appear somewhere in the 906-page statute, means subsidies are available only in states who chose to setup their own health insurance exchanges.
The majority of states did not setup their own state exchange, but instead residents signup under some version of the federal exchange.
Justice Kennedy tentatively acknowledged that legal reading of the words might support plaintiffs, but that adoption would create “…a serious constitutional problem…”.
If the plaintiffs were to have their way, over 8 million people would potentially lose their subsidies. With such loss, health insurance would no longer be affordable to them, and for this reason they would lose their requirement of purchasing it.
From here, the entire Affordable Care Act falls apart. And the fate of the program will not be known until the judges make the ruling, which isn’t expected to come until at least June.
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