King v. Burwell

Posted: April 5, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Federalism

WHAT HAPPENED: The Affordable Care Act is a statute which patched up holes in the American health care system, which included granting a form of universal health care to all citizens. After an effort to overrule this statute under the Commerce Clause was denied a few years ago, the current plaintiffs are attacking a more nuanced part of the statute which deals with Federal and State exchanges. Without getting too deep into the general stupidity of this case, the ACA allows states to create their own insurance “exchange” programs, where the State operates the insurance program that was such a disaster at the federal level. Due to what is presumed to be legislative oversight, the ACA provides federal tax credits to the citizens living in states that create their own exchange program, but does not provide the same credits to States that have not set up their own program. The Plaintiffs argue the statute’s failure to provide tax credits for States without insurance exchanges under the program should render the entire program obsolete.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Because this is always going to be before the Supreme Court. As long as this statute lives and breathes, there will be angry republicans who want to overturn this statute. More specifically, the issue is whether or not the lack of federal tax credits denies some citizens equal benefits under the law, or if the statute conversely requires all States to create their own exchanges which would be a violation of federalism, as the federal government would be requiring the States to do something outside of their legislative powers under the Constitution.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: The Court could interpret the statute via the original intent and provide federal tax credits to everyone, in which case, the Supreme Court would save the ACA but would be exceeding their power by legislating from the bench. If the Court finds that the exchange program is unconstitutional for any of the grounds state above, this one section of the ACA will be declared void and the gentle house of cards that is our national health care system will lose the ace of spades holding up the bottom left hand corner.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: No ruling as of yet.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR THE ACA IF YOU: are the kind of person who when you make a mistake, you just want someone to fix it and don’t want to hear about how you can avoid the mistake in the future. You’re also weirdly successful despite your failings. So basically you’re a middle manage in corporate America or oddly enough, a member of Congress.

YOU SHOULD ROOT AGAINST THE ACA IF YOU: are the kind of person who wants people to atone for their mistakes, far after they care or really anyone cares.   Actually, you should probably chill out, man. You don’t look so good.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Brett had a hard time seeing how this turns out good for the ACA, but felt hopeful that things would turn out the right way. Nazim said that even if the ACA was overturned, it wouldn’t be the death knell that everyone claimed it would be, which makes Nazim like the only person who feels that way.


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