Friday, June 26, 2015

Chief Justice John Roberts - On the Conservative Hot Seat Again



Chief Justice John Roberts, not only agreed with the court on King vs. Burell, he wrote the opinion that upheld another potential stumbling block for “obamacare”. As a result, some Conservatives are mighty teed off. (Politico). That said if one reads the opinion (here in PDF), the man played by the rules of the Constitution and the Court, ruling from what it appears with prudence, rather than say, any political inference.

In addition to those reforms, the Act requires the creation of an “Exchange” in each State—basically, a marketplace that allows people to compare and purchase insurance plans. The Act gives each State the opportunity to establish its own Exchange, but provides that the Federal Government will establish the Exchange if the State does not. This case is about whether the Act’s interlocking re- 2 KING v. BURWELL Opinion of the Court forms apply equally in each State no matter who establishes the State’s Exchange. Specifically, the question presented is whether the Act’s tax credits are available in States that have a Federal Exchange.

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In addition to those three reforms, the Act requires the creation of an “Exchange” in each State where people can shop for insurance, usually online. 42 U. S. C. §18031(b)(1). An Exchange may be created in one of two ways. First, the Act provides that “[e]ach State shall . . . establish an American Health Benefit Exchange . . . for the State.” Ibid. Second, if a State nonetheless chooses not to establish its own Exchange, the Act provides that the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” §18041(c)(1). The issue in this case is whether the Act’s tax credits are available in States that have a Federal Exchange rather than a State Exchange. The Act initially provides that tax credits “shall be allowed” for any “applicable taxpayer.” 26 U. S. C. §36B(a). The Act then provides that the amount of the tax credit depends in part on whether the taxpayer has enrolled in an insurance plan through “an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [hereinafter 42 U. S. C. §18031].” 26 U. S. C. §§36B(b)–(c) (emphasis added).

The IRS addressed the availability of tax credits by promulgating a rule that made them available on both State and Federal Exchanges. 77 Fed. Reg. 30378 (2012). As relevant here, the IRS Rule provides that a taxpayer is eligible for a tax credit if he enrolled in an insurance plan through “an Exchange,” 26 CFR §1.36B–2 (2013), which is defined as “an Exchange serving the individual market . . . regardless of whether the Exchange is established and operated by a State . . . or by HHS,” 45 CFR §155.20 (2014). At this point, 16 States and the District of Columbia have established their own Exchanges; the other 34 States have elected to have HHS do so.

We begin with the text of Section 36B. As relevant here, Section 36B allows an individual to receive tax credits only if the individual enrolls in an insurance plan through “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. §18031].” In other words, three things must be true: First, the individual must enroll in an insurance plan through “an Exchange.” Second, that Exchange must be “established by the State.” And third, that Exchange must be established “under [42 U. S. C. §18031].” We address each requirement in turn. First, all parties agree that a Federal Exchange qualifies as “an Exchange” for purposes of Section 36B. See Brief for Petitioners 22; Brief for Respondents 22. Section 18031 provides that “[e]ach State shall . . . establish an American Health Benefit Exchange . . . for the State.” §18031(b)(1). Although phrased as a requirement, the Act gives the States “flexibility” by allowing them to “elect” whether they want to establish an Exchange. §18041(b). If the State chooses not to do so, Section 18041 provides that the Secretary “shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” §18041(c)(1) (emphasis added). (read balance here at supreme court.gov).


Therefore, the Chief Justice sided with the law as it was written. Sour Grapes ensued

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