ACA Ruling Safeguards Subsidies No Matter Who Occupies The White House
June 25, 2015

Everyone, including Republicans, heaved a huge sigh of relief when today's decision to uphold the subsidies granted under the Affordable Care Act was released. On a purely partisan basis, Democrats no longer have to lose sleep at night over the possibility of millions across the country losing their access to health insurance, and Republicans no longer have to toss and turn wondering how they'll manage to cover the political fallout of a decision like that.

Scalia was predictably bombastic in his dissent, proving yet again that he's more suited to being in the Congress than he is to being on the Court. His petulant whimpers about "SCOTUScare" were ridiculous, because as the President has said over and over again, this case should never have reached the Court in the first place.

And yet, there it was, sitting on the chests of the formerly uninsured like a dead weight which has now been lifted, and lifted forever.

There were two ways a favorable ACA ruling could have gone . The first way would have been to say that Congress chose to defer to the IRS or assigned IRS responsibility for interpretive guidance on how the statute was implemented, known as the Chevron rule. Had Roberts chosen that as the foundation for upholding the subsidies, he would have opened the door for a Republican administration to withdraw IRS guidance and undo tax subsidies for states which do not maintain exchanges.

Instead, Roberts went straight to the issue of Congressional intent, noting that the law was "passed to strengthen insurance markets, not destroy them." I could quibble with that statement in other contexts, but it serves just fine in this one, and locks in an opinion that cannot be reversed by the stroke of a Republican presidential pen.

The bottom line here is that Chief Justice Roberts cemented the statutory interpretation in a way that will preclude a Republican in the White House from taking those subsidies away from people in states where no state exchanges have been established.

There is certainly plenty of Republican angst today over the decision, but they should all be thanking the Chief Justice for hauling their butts out of the political fire. Had it gone the other way, they would have been forced to admit they had no plan now or ever for how to deal with dead citizens' blood on their hands.

Once the euphoria of knowing the ACA has survived yet another right-wing assassination attempt has passed, we'd all better get down to the business of moving to the next step, which is to elect a Congress capable of strengthening, rather than weakening, it.

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