Thursday, November 13, 2014

Will Supreme Court snatch subsidies?

recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act raises new questions as 2015 enrollment gears up.   The challenge involves the 34 states that refused to set up their own exchanges for offering subsidies,  including North and South Carolina.

Most rulings from lower courts have sided with those who say the federal exchange those states use is valid, but the review raises the prospect that it could be deemed illegal.  There's a lot at stake:  The first time around,  more than 325,000 North Carolinians got tax credits to reduce the cost of health insurance.

“Is there a guarantee that the subsidy won’t be revoked by the Supreme Court and you’ll be stuck having to pay the bill yourself?” a blog reader asked earlier this week. “... Would they have to pay for the rest of the year without a subsidy? For the previous parts of the year?”

The consensus seems to be that there's no risk to signing up.  Asking people to repay assistance would be unheard of,  two experts I spoke with said.  A ruling would be unlikely before summer,  and both Washington and Lee's Timothy Jost and UNC Charlotte's William Brandon say it's doubtful that the court would leave millions of Americans suddenly stranded without the aid they're counting on.

“People should go ahead and sign up, and the Supreme Court will hopefully go the right way,”  said Jost,  a law professor who's the author of a health law casebook.  “Why would (Congress) have created the federal exchange if it can’t do anything?”

Brandon,  a professor of political science and health policy,  agrees:  “People would be making a big mistake if they hold off on enrollment thinking it may not be there next year.”

An enrollment Q&A by Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times reached the same conclusion: "Ultimately, the case could mean that people in those states  (using the federal exchange)  who are getting subsidies to help pay for health insurance will no longer be able to receive them.  But the case is a long way from being decided and won’t take money away from people who sign up for insurance now."

LaWana Mayfield
At an enrollment kickoff Wednesday,  Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield talked about  "fear tactics"  being used to deter the people who are most likely to lack health insurance  --  young people,  African Americans and Latinos  --  from signing up.  She said people are "being told it will be taken away."

"We cannot let fear stop us from gaining access to health care,"  Mayfield said.

One thing seems certain:  The political strife over  "Obamacare,"  approved in 2010 with no Republican votes,  will rage on in 2015,  as the GOP gains a majority in the Senate as well as the House.


Anonymous said...

Whether the Court allows the subsidies in states that did not establish exchanges depends upon whether the Court follows the clear letter and spirit of the law that Congress passed, or takes it upon itself to change that law on the basis of political or practical considerations.

The law is clear: it provides subsidy only to persons acquiring insurance on exchanges established by a state. The intent is similarly clear: Congress has no power to mandate that the states set up insurance exchanges, and so set a series of conditions that were designed to pressure the states to do so. The architects of the law have been quite specific in pointing out that the language in question was designed to encourage the states to set up exchanges by providing subsidies only if they did so.

An administration has no role in revising a law. the question before the Court is whether the law is vague and that therefore the action of the administration is not to alter the law, but rather a necessary clarification. IT requires very opaque political blinders to find the relevant portion of this law vague.

John said...

Given the recently revealed videos of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber asserting that they chose to deliberately deceive the American people because they were "too stupid to understand..." It is likely that at least some of the reasoning being reported in this column is invalid.

In fact, in one of those videos which most media outlets have been ignoring, Mr. Gruber actually agrees that challenge to the subsidies is, actually correct, that it was the intent to block subsidies to residents of states which elected not to setup exchanges.

I find it ironic how Liberals always quote the letter of the 2nd Amendment ("A well regulated militia being essential...") but then insist that intent trumps wording in this case.

Anonymous said...

"Will Supreme Court snatch subsidies?"

Should read

"Will the Supreme Court enforce law as written?"

Anonymous said...


Couldn't have said it on post! But unfortunately, like John Gruber said, most Americans are too "stupid" to know anything else other than what's proposed as a "free" handout to them...while in the end, it simply enslaves them to their 'Master', aka Big Daddy Gov't.