BREAKING: Obamacare Subsidies Upheld By Supreme Court 6-3

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Jun 25, 2015 10:10 AM
BREAKING: Obamacare Subsidies Upheld By Supreme Court 6-3

The Supreme Court has ruled in a 6-3 decision on King v. Burwell that individuals living in states without state based Obamacare exchanges are eligible to receive federal healthcare subsidies. The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who also wrote the Obamacare opinion in 2012 upholding the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is affirmed," Roberts wrote in the opinion.

You can read the entire opinion here. A reminder of the issue at hand: 

This ruling presents the Obama administration and President Obama with an enormous victory.

Justice Antonin Scalia has written a scathing dissent (bolding is mine). His dissent was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. 

"Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.” It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words “established by the State.” And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words “by the State” other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges," Scalia wrote. "Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved." 

Scalia went on to describe the Court's ruling as the "defense of the indefensible," "somersaults of statutory interpretations," and said, "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

"Worst of all for the repute of today’s decision, the Court’s reasoning is largely self-defeating. The Court predicts that making tax credits unavailable in States that do not set up their own Exchanges would cause disastrous economic consequences there. If that is so, however, wouldn’t one expect States to react by setting up their own Exchanges? And wouldn’t that outcome satisfy two of the Act’s goals rather than just one: enabling the Act’s reforms to work and promoting state involvement in the Act’s implementation? The Court protests that the very existence of a federal fallback shows that Congress expected that some States might fail to set up their own Exchanges," Scalia wrote. "Worst of all for the repute of today’s decision, the Court’s reasoning is largely self-defeating. The Court predicts that making tax credits unavailable in States that do not set up their own Exchanges would cause disastrous economic consequences there. If that is so, however, wouldn’t one expect States to react by setting up their own Exchanges? And wouldn’t that outcome satisfy two of the Act’s goals rather than just one: enabling the Act’s reforms to work and promoting state involvement in the Act’s implementation? The Court protests that the very existence of a federal fallback shows that Congress expected that some States might fail to set up their own Exchanges."

"The cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites. I dissent."

This post has been updated with additional information.

More to come...

Editor's note: A previous version of this post stated the Obamacare individual mandate was upheld last summer by the Supreme Court. That is incorrect. It was upheld in June 2012.