ACA Before Supreme Court Again


On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments for King v. Burwell, a case that represents the latest threat to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since the Supreme Court has yet to allow cases to be televised, and declined to release same-day audio of the argument, interpretation of the day relied on secondhand reporting.

At issue, of course, is whether the federal government has the authority to provide subsidies to the estimated 8 million Americans enrolled in federal exchanges. Challengers say a textual reading of the ACA means only exchanges "established by the State" can provide subsidies. Supporters of the law blame awkwardly written language in the ACA and believe rather that Congress intended for all exchange participants to be eligible for subsidies, whether created by the state or federal government. For further explanation of the case, see the November 14, 2014 issue of Health Policy Weekly.

According to most reports, the Supreme Court appeared divided along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts, who essentially saved the ACA in 2012 (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius) with an unusual interpretation of the government's taxing authority, was noticeably quiet during the hearing. As has been the case in many recent closely divided Supreme Court cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy probably holds the swing vote, but his questioning on Wednesday revealed little of his leanings in the case.

The two lawyers appearing before the court, Michael Carvin (representing the ACA challengers) and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. (representing the Obama administration) previously faced each other in National Federation of Independent Business.

Obama administration officials have suggested they have no alternative plan if the subsidies are struck down, while some Republican lawmakers have begun crafting their own alternatives.

The above excerpt was featured in the 3/6/2015 issue of Health Policy WeeklyHealth Policy Weekly, a weekly e-newsletter delivered every Friday, recaps legislative and regulatory developments and healthcare reform news that impacts the healthcare industry.Health Policy Weeklyis developed by Xcenda as a complimentary service for clients of AmerisourceBergen Corporation as well as industry decision makers within the manufacturer, managed care, healthcare provider and pharmacy community.  Click here for more information or to subscribe to Health Policy Weekly



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