USciences Dean Weighs in on SCOTUS Obamacare Decision

Written by Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis
Published on June 25, 2015

By Andrew Peterson, PhD, John Wyeth Dean of Mayes College of Healthcare Business and Policy

petersenToday, the Supreme Court (Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) upheld the notion that individuals who purchase health insurance through a federally established exchange are eligible for tax subsidies.  In King v. Burwell, the primary question was related to the wording in the Affordable Care Act that these tax subsidies are only available to a person who purchases his/her health insurance on an exchange “established by the State.”  The plaintiffs in this case were taking the literal argument that the subsidies are not available to those who buy their health insurance using a federally established exchange because the federal government is not a “State.”  That would have meant the citizens of Pennsylvania and New Jersey would not be eligible for the tax subsidy.

The dissenters (Scalia, Thomas, Alito) argued that “The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State” and “It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words ‘established by the State.

The majority opinion took into consideration not only the context, but the intent of the ACA.  Their view is that the ACA was intended to help all citizens, not just those who are receiving health insurance through a state exchange. Further, the court opines that “The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting.”  In today’s opinion, the court upheld the ACA stating that “the combination of no tax credits and an ineffective coverage requirement could well push a State’s individual insurance market into a death spiral…”

These semantic arguments – while seemingly petty – mean a lot to the citizens living in the PA/NJ region.  It means that their cost of health care is more affordable and for the second time, the court has upheld the ACA despite significant efforts to overturn it.  

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Categories: News, Feature Story, Faculty, Health Tip, Mayes College, Department of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Business, Business, Public Health, Health Policy

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