Roberts Strikes Again

July 7, 2015    

Recently the United States Supreme Court heard another argument regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or more commonly known as Obamacare. This time the argument was about federal tax credits for Americans living in the thirty-four states with federally-run healthcare marketplaces.

In a 6-3 decision the court upheld the controversial healthcare law, with Chief Justice John Roberts delivering the majority opinion. The bombastic and colorful dissent was written and delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia.

In his analysis and majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts rejected a purely textual view of the law. Roberts insisted that the Court must interpret laws in a holistic manner and consider the legislative intent. Under this approach, Roberts found that the purpose and legislative intent was to improve insurance exchanges and not to hinder the marketplace. By upholding the law, the Court affirmed that Americans in every state should have equal access to federal subsidies for health insurance, regardless if they live in a state with its own exchange, or not.

In his dissent, Justice Scalia referred to Obamacare as “SCOTUScare” which garnered quite a laugh in the nations highest court, but Scalia was all but joking. Justice Scalia gave a rather intense dissent to the ruling with a number of unflattering opinions about the Courts decision. Scalia’s dissent focused on the idea that the Court should interpret all statutes by only the letters on the page and not consider the legislative intent.

This latest decision was the second time in three years that the Court has voted to uphold key parts of the law; a fact not lost on the Court’s conservative leaning justices, who have now voted twice to strike it down. This challenge was by far the most dangerous of numerous suits pending against Obamacare. It threatened the tax credits or subsidies used by 6.4 million people in thirty-four states to make health insurance premiums affordable, in essence gutting the law and rendering a deathblow to the program.

There are few avenues left for the legal opponents of Obamacare to pursue. For now, it appears that the Supreme Court is unwilling to overturn the law for any reason and for that reason, Obamacare is likely here to stay.

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