Will the Supreme Court uphold the federal insurance subsidies?
By Roger Caldwell
As America waits on pins and needles for the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in the case King vs. Burwell. The decision could end subsidies in every state in the country, whose insurance exchanges are run by the federal government. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff over 8 million Americans will be affected, and ACA will be dismantled as we know it.
The majority of Americans don’t even know that there is a King vs. Burwell case, which will be decided by the Supreme Court, and could take away your healthcare that you now receive through the ACA. Most Americans have no understanding the power that the Justices on the Supreme Court have with their pens, but most people think they are smart senior citizens, who walk around wearing a black robe.
The King vs. Burwell case was a result on July 22, 2014, two federal appeals courts issued competing rulings on the states’ insurance exchange subsidies issue. According to the challengers, the ACA limits its financial assistance to states that establish their own insurance exchanges. They argue that the ACA only authorizes subsidies to people who enrolled through an exchange established by their state.
The staffers and lawmakers who wrote the law think that reasoning is illogical and ridiculous. “It was always intended that the federal fallback exchange would do everything that the statute told the states to do, which includes delivering the subsidies,” says Chris Condeluci, who worked as tax and benefits counsel to the Senate Finance Committee Republicans during the ACA debate.
But lawyers are always looking for loopholes and ambiguous statements in laws, and President Obama left this section of the law open to interpretation. No one really knows how the Supreme Court will rule on this case. Many of the constitutional experts are predicting that the court will decide 6-3 to uphold the ACA subsidies.
There are four liberal justices; Sotomayor/Breyer/Kagon/Ginsberg who will support the ACA, because they believe it will give greater access to healthcare to all Americans. On the other side there are the conservative justices; Alito/Scalia/Thomas, who spend their time tearing down the president’s initiatives, and probably argue that the ACA is too expensive and just too confusing.
Finally there is Kennedy and Roberts, who are in the middle, and they will decide if the ACA subsidies are upheld. Kennedy doesn’t like the notion that the federal government would force the states to set up their own exchanges or lose subsidies. If all Americans are to benefit from the ACA, Kennedy argues that the federal government should step in and do what the states refused to do, who did not accept the insurance exchanges. Many think Roberts would agree and the ACA would not be destroyed.
But, all bets are off, because the federal government thought that the states would all jump at the idea, that they could receive billions from the federal government to improve healthcare.
ACA’s architect, Jonathan Gruber said, “I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange, the politicians in the state are costing state residents hundreds of millions and billions of dollars that they throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure. Will people understand that, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens?”
Americans will have to wait and see if the senior citizens who walk around in the black robes are really that smart.