Burwell Wins - Explaining Today's Ruling


By Hadley Heath

Today the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinions in King v. Burwell, the case about whether the IRS had authority to disperse federal subsidies in states that did not establish their own exchanges. 

 Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor comprised the majority. The other three Justices (Scalia, Thomas, Alito) dissented. Here's the bottom line: The majority ruled that the IRS, when it sent out subsidies on behalf of consumers in non-establishing states, had the right interpretation of the law. If it is any good news, the Court did NOT say that it was up to the IRS to make this interpretation, but rather the agency's interpretation was the correct one. Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion (link to all opinions here), relied heavily on the purpose of the law, but did not rule that the Chevron deference principle was applicable here. 

Here is my statement on today's ruling, from the Bridge to Better Health Care project:

“It’s important to understand that today’s decision was strictly about a technical interpretation regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and had nothing to do with the merits of the law which, more than five years after its implementation, the American people continue to oppose.  The public has already suffered too long under this law and its broken promises. Even after no fewer than 50 major changes, many by executive fiat, it remains fundamentally broken and no amount of band-aids or tweaks will make it acceptable to the public.

“Now, we need to move forward to lay the foundations for consensus on a better plan and the political environment toimplement it. We can’t just settle for short-term fixes. Many of the biggest harms are yet to come, with fines doubling next year for individuals who don’t buy mandated insurance and all but the smallest businesses facing penalties and fines from the employer mandate. And that doesn’t count the significant increases topremiums and deductibles if one does comply."

Basically, it is now clearly up to the legislative and executive branches to change health policy. The Supreme Court has shown once again that it will uphold ObamaCare as it is currently being implemented.


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