Tags: Healthcare Reform | Supreme Court | supreme court | king v burwell | state rights | Sotomayor | Anthony Kennedy

NYT: State Rights Argument May Come to Obamacare's Aid

By    |   Monday, 09 March 2015 07:28 AM

Liberal-leaning justices have invoked conservative reasoning on state rights to rationalize allowing the federal government to subsidize consumers in state-run marketplaces, according to The New York Times.

The Supreme Court is deliberating whether the Internal Revenue Service may provide tax credits to millions of Americans, who live in mostly red states that did not set up their own exchanges and buy their health insurance on the federally run marketplace.

Plaintiffs in the case before the high court, King v. Burwell, say that the Affordable Care Act explicitly states that tax credit subsidies can only go to those who buy "through an Exchange established by the state" and not the federal government.

Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in last week's oral arguments that "the language of the law is clear and unambiguous," and that it was "gobbledygook" for the White House to claim that an exchange set up by the federal government "qualifies as an exchange established by the state."

Pro-Obamacare justices countered that it was unthinkable that Congress would have intended to penalize states that utilized the federal exchange by refusing insurance subsidies to their citizens, the Times reported.

In 2012, the Supreme Court, citing the constitutional principle of federalism, held that the Affordable Care Act could not force states to expand their Medicaid coverage. The court is now about to decide whether federalism allows the national government to provide insurance subsidies to citizens of states that have chosen not to operate exchanges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is considered in the liberal camp, told Michael Carvin, the lawyer for the conservative-leaning plaintiffs, that if the justices embraced his reasoning the court would be "intruding on the federal-state relationship, because then the states are going to be coerced into establishing their own exchanges," the Times reported.

As a matter of law, "Congress does not mean to impose heavy burdens and draconian choices on states unless it says so awfully clearly," said Justice Elena Kagan, who is also seen as liberal.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who tends to reason from the political middle, said the states were in effect being coerced to create their own exchanges if their citizens couldn't be subsidized by the federal exchange. Kennedy "used the plaintiffs' own argument against them to suggest that it would be unconstitutionally coercive if Congress made the subsidies depend on a state's decision to establish an exchange," Mark Gallant, an attorney at Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia, told the Times.

The justices are aware that legal and public policy analysis circulating on the Internet, including an Urban League report that warns that if they rule with the plaintiffs, millions more Americans might lose their coverage and premiums could dramatically rise, the Times reported.

Justice Samuel Alito addressed this concern when he said that the court could find a way to avoid such negative consequences, perhaps by postponing implementation of its decision to give Congress time to revisit the law, Forbes reported.

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Liberal-leaning justices on the Supreme Court have invoked conservative reasoning on state rights to apparently argue in favor of federal exchange subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, The New York Times says.
supreme court, king v burwell, state rights, Sotomayor, Anthony Kennedy
Monday, 09 March 2015 07:28 AM
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