Tags: Healthcare Reform | Supreme Court | Obamacare | Supreme Court | John Roberts | Anthony Kennedy

Politico: Obamacare's Fate May Fall on Justices Roberts, Kennedy

Image: Politico: Obamacare's Fate May Fall on Justices Roberts, Kennedy
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Mandel Ngan/POOL/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 03 Mar 2015 11:14 AM

In the ongoing Supreme Court review of Obamacare, all eyes are on two justices who are perhaps ideologically divided, but whom many think hold the cards on whether the much-scrutinized healthcare law lives or dies, Politico reports.

Both Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan and a frequent swing voter, are expected to cast crucial votes in their review of a challenge made by four Virginia residents.

They claim in their petition before the high court that many of the law's subsidies are illegal, as only residents of 16 states and the District of Columbia should receive those subsidies via the state-sponsored exchanges established there, Politico said.

A win for the petitioners would impact about 7 million consumers who have taken advantage of such subsidies in 34 states without  — in the wording of the healthcare law — "exchanges established by the state," Politico said.

The dilemma before the court could hinge on semantics, Politico noted as it outlined both sides' arguments in the case.

"The Obama administration hopes to set up a scenario in which the justices agree it's clear that Congress intended for subsidies to go to everyone. That would make it much harder for them to rule that the subsidies must end merely based on the one clause. It's an argument that could resonate with Roberts and Kennedy," Politico said.

"However, the law's critics are hoping that the two justices do precisely the opposite: that they find the phrase about the state exchanges so clear-cut that they don't embark on a quest to sort out what Congress intended," it said.

The New York Post said the case may hinge on a "laughable technicality," that could send the law into a "death spiral."

"Obamacare exchanges only worked in conjunction with the subsidies," Brookings Institution health economist Louise Sheiner told the Post. "So if you are taking out one piece of the stool, the whole thing falls apart."

Writing in the Boston Globe, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe says it seems doubtful the Supreme Court could vacate a law impacting so many people based on a few words, but not impossible.

In his column, the Harvard law professor believes the legal challenge should be rejected.

"To be sure, there are legal arguments that could provide cover for going the other way: a 1,000-page statute is bound to contain some clumsy or inept phrasing, and the Supreme Court could give lawmakers a lesson in draftsmanship by punishing innocent citizens and the states they happen to live in.

"But it would be hard to reconcile such a harsh approach with how the court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has recently set about interpreting federal laws."

Tribe added: "The better way to avoid the charge of politicization — and to do justice to the people whose lives are involved, to the dozens of states that accepted the feds' invitation to run their exchanges, and to the court's integrity and reputation — is to reject this latest challenge."

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In the ongoing Supreme Court review of Obamacare, all eyes are on two justices who are perhaps ideologically divided, but whom many think hold the cards on whether the much-scrutinized healthcare law lives or dies, Politico reports.
Obamacare, Supreme Court, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy
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2015-14-03
Tuesday, 03 Mar 2015 11:14 AM
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