The United States Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act Thursday after the justices released its 6-3 ruling on King v. Burwell, which will leave the law in tact in its current form. The four-word statutory passage – “established by the State” – stood at the heart of the case and the nine justices set to deliberate the interpretation of these words.
If taken literally, they would have rendered Obamacare immobile in many states. However, the judges opted to look beyond these words and interpret them in light of the rest of the law – which left healthcare subsidies intact for individuals and families throughout the nation.
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“This case is about whether the Act’s interlocking reforms apply equally in each State no matter who establishes the State’s Exchange,” according to the official Opinion of the Court, which points to the provision that allows the federal government to establish a state’s exchange if the state fails to establish its own.
After much deliberation, the court found that phrase in question should be interpreted in context. According to the court’s formal opinion, the law “allows tax credits for insurance purchased on any Exchange created under the Act. Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that congress plainly meant to avoid.”
“We don’t look at four words, said Justice Elena Kagan. “We look at the whole text, the particular context” to gain “an understanding of the law as a whole.”
The Right Decision?
Was the decision of our nation’s highest court the right one? Well, as always, it depends who you’re asking.
Certainly, for those who will retain their health care as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, the outcome was optimal. But if you’re a business owner, you may not agree with the ruling.
What is clear is that (at least for now) Obamacare is here to stay. Business owners and professional service providers must continue to work to understand it and to identify the best way to work in tandem with its multitude of provisions.
To learn more about your responsibilities under the Affordable Care Act, email Rea & Associates.
By Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)
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