PA-Gov: Wolf Reacts to SCOTUS Obamacare Decision

Supreme_Court_US_2010The Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the Obama Administration.

The case, King v. Burwell, concerned a typo in the law that could’ve seriously hampered the ACA.

The health care system currently relies on exchanges maintained either by the states, or if the states choose not to set one up, by the federal government.

In this case, King argued that the exchanges set up by the federal government were illegal.

Pennsylvania has no state-run exchange system and is reliant on the government’s subsidies. The Governor sought, and even received, permission from the government to create a state exchange if necessary.

Governor Wolf, however, is quite happy that it didn’t come to that.

“I am extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell,” he stated. “As a result of this decision, roughly 382,000 Pennsylvanians will keep their much-needed assistance to help them afford health care.”

“I took steps to protect Pennsylvania’s consumers by putting in place a contingency in the event the Supreme Court ruled people are not eligible for subsidies, but I am pleased to say that we will no longer need to rely on this plan,” he continued.

“My administration will be notifying the federal government that we will be withdrawing our plan to set up a state based health insurance marketplace in Pennsylvania,” the Governor concluded.

The Court and the Decision

The Court consists of four Justices that are considered progressives and were appointed by Democratic Presidents: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton); Stephen Breyer (Clinton); Sonia Sotomayor (Obama); and Elena Kagan (Obama).

As well as four Justices that are considered conservatives and were appointed by Republican Presidents: Chief Justice John Roberts (Bush 43); Antonin Scalia (Reagan); Clarence Thomas (Bush 41); and Samuel Alito (Bush 43).

Justice Anthony Kennedy (Reagan) is generally regarded as the swing Justice.

The majority consists of Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. The Chief Justice wrote the majority opinion.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” the Chief Justice concluded. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

The minority consists of Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Scalia, the most senior Justice of the dissenters wrote the minority opinion. An originalist, Scalia asserted that the Court is over-reaching.

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he wrote.

10 Responses

  1. I predict that the 16 states with their own exchanges will eventually opt out for the Federal exchange. Most of them have been terrible expensive failures and they are now looking at charging a fee on the insurance to pay for their administrative costs. So they will dump the problem on the Feds. So more consolidated power in Washington, more power for the large insurance companies, more power to the large hospital chains, more taxes, higher premiums, less choice of health care providers and more regulations including ones that do not exist in statute (since the Supreme Court will see words that don’t exist).

  2. “Roberts used Scalia’s words to hammer home the point that, but for the federal exchanges, Obamacare is unworkable. Scalia doesn’t dispute this. But to Roberts, this fact constitutes sufficient evidence of Congress’s intent to establish the federal exchanges. To Scalia, this fact is not sufficient evidence. As a matter of principle, in almost no circumstance does he look past the statutory language to investigate Congress’s subjective intent.”

    That was worth repeating. It looks like Roberts picked his own context, ignoring Gruber the architect’s explanation that it was intended to make Republican governors look bad by having to set up an exchange. That was the intent because they never considered they wouldn’t be set up.

    Roberts had to do gymnastics to defend his own creation of the government’s right to tax anyone merely for existing. The very introduction of the opinion states that Obamacare was intended to mirror Romneycare. So, despite Gruber the architect’s explanation, Roberts moved to say ‘despite any poor language in a poorly written law,’ that they will fix it to make it work.

  3. Not really. Roberts used Scalia’s words to hammer home the point that, but for the federal exchanges, Obamacare is unworkable. Scalia doesn’t dispute this. But to Roberts, this fact constitutes sufficient evidence of Congress’s intent to establish the federal exchanges. To Scalia, this fact is not sufficient evidence. As a matter of principle, in almost no circumstance does he look past the statutory language to investigate Congress’s subjective intent. He just considers it a slippery slope and won’t go down it.

    Nobody’s a fraud. Nobody’s being a hypocrite. It’s just two slightly different approaches to statutory interpretation.

    As you know, the political merits of Obamacare is an entirely different issue. To answer your false question, I would not rather the government bypass the insurance companies and provided the insurance or the health care itself.

  4. Reasonable Rep-
    Robert’s basically used the logic Scalia’s previous dissent against him.

    Would you rather the government just bypassed the insurance companies and provided the insurance (or the health care itself)?

  5. And this is not to say I share Scalia’s viewpoint here. In obvious instances such as this morning’s case, I usually trust the Court to “fix” Congress’s mistake. But here’s your free lesson of the day:

    Next time you suspect that one of your beloved left-wing crusaders at HuffPo or Mother Jones – despite their never having so much as listened in on a first year law school lecture – purports to have easily refuted the logic within a carefully-written dissent from one of the most influential Justices in the history of the Supreme Court…then your suspicion is PROBBBBB-ABLY wrong.

  6. David, the only “frauds” here are Ryan Grim and Dana Liebelson, the hack HuffPo “journalists” from whom you copy and paste this misguided critique.

    Today’s case concerned the FEDERAL exchange. The language quoted from Scalia’s dissent contemplated the inability of the STATE exchanges to operate absent the federal subsidies.

    Read the relevant excerpt in full – I omitted the internal citations…

    “The ACA requires each State to establish a health-insurance ‘exchange.’ Each exchange is a one-stop marketplace for individuals and small businesses to compare community-rated health insurance and purchase the policy of their choice. The exchanges cannot operate in the manner Congress intended if the Individual Mandate, Medicaid Expansion, and insurance regulations cannot remain in force.

    The Act’s design is to allocate billions of federal dollars to subsidize individuals’ purchases on the exchanges. In-dividuals with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level receive tax credits to offset the cost of insurance to the individual purchaser. By 2019, 20 million of the 24 million people who will obtain insurance through an exchange are expected to receive an average federal subsidy of $6,460 per person. Without the community-rating insurance regulation, however, the average federal subsidy could be much higher; for community rating greatly lowers the enormous premiums unhealthy individuals would otherwise pay. Federal subsidies would make up much of the difference.

    The result would be an unintended boon to insurance companies, an unintended harm to the federal fisc, anda corresponding breakdown of the “shared responsibil-ity” between the industry and the federal budget that Congress intended. Thus, the federal subsidies must be invalidated.

    In the absence of federal subsidies to purchasers, insurance companies will have little incentive to sell insurance on the exchanges. Under the ACA’s scheme, few, if any, individuals would want to buy individual insurance policies outside of an exchange, because federal subsidies would be unavailable outside of an exchange. Difficulty in attracting individuals outside of the exchange would in turn motivate insurers to enter exchanges, despite the exchanges’ onerous regulations. That system of incentives collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated. Without the federal subsidies, individ-uals would lose the main incentive to purchase insurance inside the exchanges, and some insurers may be unwilling to offer insurance inside of exchanges. WITH FEWER BUYERS AND EVEN FEWER SELLERS, THE EXCHANGES WOULD NOT OPERATE AS CONGRESS INTENDED AND MAY NOT OPERATE AT ALL.”

  7. Reasonable Rep-

    Scalia is a fraud and a hypocrite.

    In his dissent he not only made obvious factual errors, but he contradicted his own arguments in his previous dissent.

    ——
    “Our only evidence of what Congress meant comes from the terms of the law, and those terms show beyond all question that tax credits are available only on state Exchanges,” Scalia writes, forgetting that the people who actually wrote the law were not only available to provide evidence of their intent, but did so.

    Scalia, of course, is a much better writer than he is a consistent thinker. Words might not mean anything, but Chief Justice John Roberts dredged up some of Scalia’s own from his last Obamacare dissent.

    “Without the federal subsidies… the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and might not operate at all,” Scalia and the dissenters wrote at the time, back when they wanted the entire law to be crushed. Now that he’s only going after the subsides, it’s clear as day to him that Congress didn’t intend what he said they intended last time.

    ———

  8. Has nothing to do with being pro-business or anti-business or any other political disposition. Three years ago, Kennedy voted to invalidate Obamacare on the basis of it violating the Commerce Clause.

    Here, consider that both Scalia and Roberts tend to be originalists and, as Justices, often vote together in hopes of effectuating the meaning of the law at issue at the time Congress enacted it. However, Scalia – unlike Roberts – is a pure textualist and won’t look beyond the plain meaning of the law’s words to inquire into Congress’s subjective intent. Roberts is willing to do so in some instances.

    Congress clearly screwed up here. The plain reading of the law doesn’t provide for a federal exchange. But since Congress clearly intended for a federal exchange to be part of the law – lest the law be useless – Roberts and Kennedy were willing to “fix” it. Scalia just doesn’t think it’s the Court’s job to cover for Congress.

  9. This law is a pro-business law (insurance industry) and this court is pro-business. No surprise with this ruling.

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