Supreme Court will take on Obamacare again

In a surprise move, the United States Supreme Court will take on a second challenge to a key part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, this spring.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court said in a court order on early Friday afternoon it will accept the case of King v. Burwell, which challenges to ability of the federal government to offer tax credits to qualifying insurance payers in states where the federal government is running health insurance exchanges under the ACA.

The acceptance of the case wasn’t a surprise but the timing was. The Court had met in a private conference earlier on Friday and was expected to announce any new cases on Monday.

The Court also took the case despite the Obama administration’s desire for a full appeals court to review a finding in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Currently, the federal government runs health insurance exchanges in 34 states. The tax credits go to people who most likely can’t afford to buy insurance at full prices on the exchanges. So a ruling that holds the subsidies are unconstitutional could have an adverse effect on Obamacare’s future.

In July, a divided three-judge panel struck down tax subsidies provided to residents of 34 states who purchased new health care plans on exchanges established by the federal government.

“Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation,” said Judge Thomas B. Griffith, writing for the 2-1 majority in what was then called Halbig v. Burwell.

In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards spared no words.

“This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” he wrote. “Because the proposed judgment of the majority defies the will of Congress and the permissible interpretations of the agencies to whom Congress has delegated the authority to interpret and enforce the terms of the ACA, I dissent.”

Oral arguments before the full 11-person bench had been scheduled for December 17 until today’s Supreme Court action.

Recent Stories on Constitution Daily

10 essential facts as same-sex marriage heads toward the Supreme Court (again)

What’s next for same-sex marriage?

Constitution Check: Do the federal courts lack the authority to rule on same-sex marriage?