The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today rejected by a vote of 6-3 a statutory challenge to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Chief Justice Roberts, who previously cast the deciding vote upholding the constitutionality of the ACA, wrote today’s opinion rejecting the statutory challenge. He was joined by Kennedy, Kagan, Breyer, Sotomayor and Ginsberg. Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented.
The statutory challenge was based on the following four words buried on page 95 of a 960 page statute that authorized federal subsidies to pay for insurance plans: “established by state exchanges.” 34 states opted out of establishing state exchanges. In King v. Burwell, opponents to Obamacare argued that federal subsidies were not available to defray the cost of insurance in those 34 states, given those four unambiguous words.
Chief Justice Roberts reasoned that a literal interpretation of those four words would emasculate the ACA because it would result in 6.8 million people losing their health insurance because they could not afford it without the subsidies. Since the purpose of the ACA was to provide insurance, rather than to deny it, he decided the four words were ambiguous and upheld the statute.
Justice Roberts’s decision makes perfect sense.
Purists might disagree, but the remedy for a contrary decision favored by the minority, would have required Congress to amend the statute so that the 6.8 million people who lost their insurance would be able to get it back. That was not going to happen with Republicans holding majorities in both houses of Congress
The SCOTUS also upheld the Fair Housing Act prohibiting “disguised animus” resulting in disparate impact discrimination practices, regardless whether they were intended.
Good and somewhat unexpected results today.