Tags: Healthcare Reform | Supreme Court | obamacare | challenge | supreme court | john roberts | opinion

WSJ: Obamacare Challenge Puts Chief Justice Roberts in Spotlight

By    |   Wednesday, 04 Mar 2015 07:02 PM

The challenge to the Affordable Care Act for which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday may come down to Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion on the matter, which could potentially help shape his reputation for years to come.

A Wall Street Journal story explains the decision, which is expected to come in June, will most likely be split among the eight other justices. Roberts, therefore, would have the deciding vote.

That was the case three years ago, when the court ruled 5-4 on a challenge to a portion of the law that requires all Americans to either have health insurance or pay a fine. Roberts' vote sided with the law, which was passed in 2010.

"Most of us assume Roberts is the swing vote because he was the swing vote last time this came around," University of California law professor Adam Winkler told the Journal.

"And the sense is that the four justices who voted against Obamacare last time are eager to strike it down this time."

The four other justices, Winkler said, would likely side with the law.

The latest challenge to the law known simply as Obamacare involves the tax credits aimed at lower- and middle-income Americans.

Currently, 34 states use the federal healthcare exchanges to sell insurance plans. Four words in the law — "established by the state" — could lead to the law's demise. The case brought to the Supreme Court argues that those words mean only people who bought insurance plans on state exchanges would qualify for the tax credits that make their plans more affordable.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the challenge, the system could collapse and people in those 34 states could lose their healthcare plans. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have state exchanges set up.

The Supreme Court's role in the matter is to determine whether the law was properly interpreted. And Roberts' vote could be the deciding one.

Roberts' decision to vote with the law three years ago angered conservatives; this latest challenge, should he vote against the controversial healthcare law, could repair his reputation among the GOP.

"He was basically accused of treason," Supreme Court historian Lucas Powe told the Journal. "I've seen religious imagery out of Republicans that this is Roberts' chance of redemption."

During Wednesday's 85-minute session, reports say Roberts — a conservative appointed to the court by President George W. Bush — did not give any indications as to how he would vote.

Justice Samuel Alito said Wednesday that if the court rules in favor of the challenge, there's a chance the tax credits could remain in place for 2015 to give the government time to clear up the law and make it legal. That would also ensure that people in the affected states would not immediately lose their coverage.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have come up with alternatives to Obamacare should it be struck down by the high court.

"The administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare for an upcoming Supreme Court decision that could leave millions of Americans unable to afford insurance thanks to this failed law," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said. "Republicans must offer the American people alternatives that lower costs and break the status quo that favors big government and big health care business over hard-working Americans.

"Every last word of Obamacare must be repealed. And while we continue that fight, we must also send bill after bill to [President Barack Obama's] desk to stop its harmful effects."

Getting the law appealed starts at the Supreme Court. Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell told the Journal Roberts is probably looking past the short-term ramifications of striking it down.

"I think he is probably playing a larger and longer game in which he thinks that his ultimate reputation will depend more upon guiding the court and the nation to a sensible place," McConnell said.

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The challenge to the Affordable Care Act for which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday may come down to Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion on the matter, which could potentially help shape his reputation for years to come.
obamacare, challenge, supreme court, john roberts, opinion
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2015-02-04
Wednesday, 04 Mar 2015 07:02 PM
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