BOSTON (CBS) – The Obamacare ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday is a victory for the White House. But if you think it even begins to bring an end to the bitter political battle over the Affordable Care Act, think again.
To understand why, it’s well worth taking a few minutes to read both Justice John Roberts’ majority ruling and Justice Antonin Scalia’s scathing dissent.
The core of King et al vs Burwell was a dispute over what Roberts called the “inartful drafting” of a section of the ACA dealing with how people qualify for federal subsidies. The way it was worded, the plaintiffs argued, seemed to exclude the 34 states that declined to set up their own exchanges (health care plan marketplaces, like our own Connector) from receiving the subsidies.
The Supreme Court majority ruled that no, the language was “ambiguous” enough to allow for the administration’s preferred interpretation, and the subsidies will continue to flow. But this is hardly the last of the ACA’s potential legal problems.
As Roberts wrote, “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.”
Major parts of Obamacare that seem likely to excite political resistance and legal challenge have yet to kick in, including the whopping excise tax it slaps on so-called “Cadillac” plans many companies offer their workers.
Even here in Massachusetts, the birthplace of Obamacare with a popular system (Connector website nightmares notwithstanding), the gory details of the ACA remain controversial.
In her statement Thursday praising the court’s ruling, Lora Pellegrini, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans notes “pending changes that the state faces due to the ACA, such as the expansion of the small group market, will impact the progress that has taken place in the Commonwealth, resulting in higher costs and fewer options for Massachusetts employers and consumers.”
Pellegrini wants the feds to make permanent the temporary reprieve Massachusetts has from adopting those federal rules. Obamacare critics want the current law dramatically revised, if not scrapped outright.
Look for conservative suspicion that Obamacare is a step toward completely government-run health care to now merge with their perennial antipathy toward judicial “overreach” into a toxic political brew that will likely play a big role in the 2016 presidential race.
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