The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it would hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act in a case that could destroy Obamacare. But the plaintiffs may have a tough time succeeding on the legal merits of their argument.
The ruling in King v. Burwell will hinge on whether the plaintiffs can prove that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law does not provide tax credits to Americans in more than 30 states who purchased health insurance through the federal exchange, built by the Department of Health and Human Services. The law clearly provides those same credits to people who bought insurance through the state exchanges.
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 against the government in a similar case, Halbig v. Burwell. The dissent in that case, written by Circuit Judge Harry Edwards, neatly laid out the argument that the law is, in fact, being interpreted as Congress intended.
These nine points could undermine the plaintiffs' case before the Supreme Court (which isn’t to say that they won't prevail).
- "At the time of the ACA’s enactment, it was well understood that without the subsidies, the individual mandate was not viable as a mechanism for creating a stable insurance market."
- "The ACA would be self-defeating if taxpayers who purchase insurance from an HHS-created Exchange are deemed ineligible to receive subsidies."
- "The majority opinion ignores the obvious ambiguity in the statute and claims to rest on plain meaning where there is none to be found."
- "Simply put [the law] interpreted as Appellants urge would function as a poison pill to the insurance markets in the States that did not elect to create their own exchanges. That is surely not what Congress intended."
- "It makes little sense to think that Congress would have imposed so substantial a condition in such an oblique and circuitous manner."
- "The simple truth is that Appellants' incentive story [see below] is a fiction, a post hoc narrative concocted to provide a colorable explanation for the otherwise risible notion that Congress would have wanted insurance markets to collapse in States that elected not to create their own Exchanges."
- "If an HHS-created Exchange does not count as established by the State it is in, there would be no individuals 'qualified' to purchase coverage in the 34 States with HHS-created Exchanges. This would make little sense."
- "The record indicates that, when the ACA was enacted, no State even considered the possibility that its taxpayers would be denied subsidies if the State opted to allow HHS to establish an Exchange on its behalf. Not one."
- "The IRS's and HHS's constructions of the statute are perfectly consistent with the statute's text, structure, and purpose."
As HuffPost’s Ryan Grim and Jeffrey Young explained earlier, “A key aspect of the plaintiffs' argument is that Congress wanted to incentivize states to create their own exchanges and withhold financial assistance for residents of those states that didn't.” That's an idea Judge Edwards found laughable.