With the help of The Washington Post here is what you need to know about the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which is being challenged in the Supreme Court for the second time since it became a law back in 2010. In the first Supreme Court case in 2012 the law was upheld on the issue of the individual mandate. today, the legal challenge is focused on the taxpayer-funded premium subsidies that underpin the entire law.
The nine justices heard on Wednesday oral arguments over whether it’s legal to give out the subsidies in 34 states where the federal government established and runs the insurance exchanges, HealthCare.gov.
The debate centers on interpretation of a four-word phrase buried in the 2000-page law that says financial aid is available through “exchanges established by the state.”
The case that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today is King v. Burwell. The case was filed by four Virginians who argue an IRS rule providing insurance subsidies in federal-run exchanges violates the text of the Affordable Care Act. The challenge, which is being funded by a libertarian think tank, argues the section of the ACA dealing with the subsidies only provides for aid in an exchange “established by the state” — and therefore, none of the nearly three dozen states with federal-run exchanges. The Obama administration and supporters say a full reading of the law makes clear that the subsidies can flow through federal-run exchanges, which they argue was the intent of Congress when they drafted the law.
Residents of 34 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges could lose their subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration. Residents of the remaining states running their own exchanges, including Maryland and the District of Columbia, wouldn’t be affected. Here are the states with federal-run exchanges:
An estimated 8 million people would become uninsured if the Obama administration loses, according to the independent and respected Rand Corp. projections. Premiums would increase, on average, by 47 percent in the individual markets in those states, according to the analysis. Those projections assume that the subsidies are struck and neither Washington nor the states tried to rescue them.
There have been 55 friend-of-the-court briefs filed by outside groups in this case — 34 supporting the Obama administration and 21 supporting the challengers. Those on the government’s side include health insurers, hospitals, 22 states, and senior Democrats who wrote the law. Those supporting the plaintiffs include seven states, 15 Republican lawmakers, and a host of conservative and libertarian groups.
Some handy links: