King v. Burwell: The People, Not The Judges, Will Replace Obamacare

With a 6-3 decision, The Supreme Court upheld King v. Burwell, the lawsuit asserting tax credits paid to health insurers in at least 34 states using the federal health insurance exchanges are illegal.

The majority admits the law is sloppy:

It is instead the Court’s task to determine the correct reading of Section 36B. If the statutory language is plain, the Court must enforce it according to its terms. But oftentimes the meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context. (Pages 2-3)

When read in context, the phrase “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. §18031]” is properly viewed as ambiguous. (Page 3)

Petitioners’ arguments about the plain meaning of Section 36B are strong. (Page 20)

Nevertheless, relying on the so-called Chevron doctrine, the Supreme Court decided the administration is free to continue to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars in tax credits that are not clearly authorized in the statute. This is a dangerous notion. When the president and Congress have the same policy objective, it encourages them to write a law as ambiguously as possible, so that the President can bend the law this way and that way without interference.

Especially when billions of taxpayers’ dollars are at risk, judges should demand that laws be written crystal clear. However, what is done is done. What’s next? Long term, the people, not the courts, will decide the fate of Obamacare.

In the short term, many of the 16 states that have their own exchanges will look to dump them back on the federal government. This will reduce their operating costs.

In the medium term, Obamacare’s opponents in Congress will not be able to repeal it until 2017 at the earliest. However, that does not mean they can do nothing. Instead, they should pass fiscally responsible health reform that the president will sign.

For example, Congress can offset spending from the medical device excise tax repeal by adopting proposals from the president’s budget, such as paying the same fees for certain procedures whether done at a physicians’ office or a hospital. This would save an estimated $29 billion.

Read more about our health reforms, on which Congress and President Obama can agree, at this link.

Comments (6)

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  1. Bart I. says:

    The Chevron doctrine. Sounds like something out of “The Space Merchants.”

  2. John Fembup says:

    Well, I’m disappointed but not devastated.

    I believe it’s a principle in court that if the Judge finds a document vague or ambiguous, the Judge has significantly greater latitude to interpret the document.

    I don’t agree that the ACA words in question are vague or ambiguous.

    But then again, I’m not the Judge.

    I hope this ruling does not foreshadow the collapse of our Supreme Court into a political arm of the majority party. That would be devastating because it would vitiate the Constitutional device of checks and balances and threaten the protections against tyranny the Constitution provides.

    That aside, as I say, I’m disappointed but not devastated. Isn’t it after all rather less significant that Iran or ISIS with an H-bomb?

    • Thank you. As a non-lawyer, I find that principle wrongheaded and likely a cause of the poorly written and bloated “laws” Congress passes.

  3. Emmett Murphy says:

    If you believe that Congress will repeal the ACA, you are living in a fantasy land. Nothing ever gets repealed ever, even the most absurd bills, useless departments, no matter how inconsequential they are. So, you have to get used to it. I hate the very concept of the ACA. But I believe that conservatives are wasting their time talking about repeal in 2017. Rather, time is better spent trying to ‘fix’ the obvious problems with the bill. It is not rocket science. That said, between now and 2017 you will have millions more enrolled and that constituency of takers will not be denied. No one in Congress will vote to repeal unless they want to be unemployed from a great living and lifestyle. If Hillary wins in 2016 it will in part be because the conservatives shot themselves over the ACA, as if it is a religious war. Instead, fix the flaws and talk about the lack of transparency in the entire healthcare system, the lack of price discovery and the opaque aspects that are maintained by the hospital, doctor, and big pharma lobbies…..

    • Well, the Interstate Commerce Commission was repealed in 1995, after about 20 years of deregulation of railroads and trucking.

      When it comes to entitlements, it is harder for sure. But welfare got reformed in the 1990s.

  4. Jimbino says:

    Unfortunately, expensive socialist programs like Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare won’t be repealed until the federal gummint runs out of money and the American people end up speaking Arabic or Farsi.