For the second time, the United States Supreme Court has saved the Affordable Health Care Act — Obamacare — ruling that the law may provide nationwide tax subsidies for coverage.
Here are some key paragraphs from today’s decision.
“Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through ‘the traditional legislative process.’ And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as ‘reconciliation,’ which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate’s normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. As a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.” – Chief Justice John Roberts.
“It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate.
“Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.” – Justice Antonin Scalia.
“The combination of no tax credits and an ineffective coverage requirement could well push a State’s individual insurance market into a death spiral. One study predicts that premiums would increase by 47 percent and enrollment would decrease by 70 percent. Another study predicts that premiums would increase by 35 percent and enrollment would decrease by 69 percent. And those effects would not be limited to individuals who purchase insurance on the Exchanges. Because the Act requires insurers to treat the entire individual market as a single risk pool, premiums outside the Exchange would rise along with those inside the Exchange.
“It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner.” — Justice Robert
The Court predicts that making tax credits unavailable in States that do not set up their own Exchanges would cause disastrous economic consequences there. If that is so, however, wouldn’t one expect States to react by setting up their own Exchanges? And wouldn’t that outcome satisfy two of the Act’s goals rather than just one: enabling the Act’s reforms to work and promoting state involvement in the Act’s implementation? The Court protests that the very existence of a federal fallback shows that Congress expected that some States might fail to set up their own Exchanges. It does not show, however, that Congress expected the number of recalcitrant States to be particularly large. The more accurate the Court’s dire economic predictions, the smaller that number is likely to be. That reality destroys the Court’s pretense that applying the law as written would imperil “the viability of the entire Affordable Care Act.” — Justice Antonin Scalia
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt.” – Justice Roberts
” … the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” — Justice Scalia
Here’s the full decision: