What King v. Burwell Means for SC

March 6, 2015


Today the US Supreme Court holds the future of Obamacare in its hands as it hears King v Burwell. Not sure what the significance of this case is? Well, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about the case that could radically alter Obamacare as we know it.

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law in early 2010, there were many things we still didn’t know about the bill and its effect on everyday Americans. Now, with several years of experience under our belts, the truth has grown increasingly clear: far from living up to its name, it has become one more one-size-fits-all Washington boondoggle with a bungled website roll-out, lingering questions about consumer data privacy, rising insurance rates and many people losing the doctor they were promised that they could keep. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The latest controversy: are people in the federal exchange actually eligible for the subsidies that they’ve been receiving to help them pay their premiums?

A clear reading of the law’s actual language would indicate the answer is “no.” In fact, at the time the bill was passed, now infamous PPACA architect Jonathan Gruber said that provision was intentional to encourage states to set up their own exchanges. Now however, with a majority of states like South Carolina standing strong against these federal strong arm tactics, the Administration has changed their tune and said it was a simple bill drafting oversight and should be treated as such.

This is the question that the Supreme Court will decide in King v. Burwell.

So what does this mean for South Carolinians and people in other states caught in the cross-hairs of this policy?

One thing the King v Burwell ruling does not signal is the end of the world. Many in the liberal media are painting this case as a partisan attempt to derail Obamacare, lifeline of the American healthcare system. This is patently false. A ruling against the federal government in King v Burwell would simply expose yet another of the many fundamental flaws with the Obamacare system; a flaw that the Obama administration themselves wrote into the bill.

What King v Burwell does mean if the Supreme Court rules against the government, is that both state and federal lawmakers will have an outstanding opportunity to make real reforms to the failing Obamacare system. A win could pave the way for more healthcare alternatives that would give people the freedom to choose more affordable plans, improve transparency, and offer states more flexibility. If the Supreme Court sides with the government, a very dangerous precedent will be set that enables the IRS and other federal agencies to ignore and rewrite laws duly passed by Congress at will.

An important detail to remember is that the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell represent the millions of Americans harmed by Obamacare, including those who lost their health plans, doctors, jobs, and those who the law forces to pay higher insurance premiums and taxes. It’s worthwhile to take a look back and remember the full extent of the damage brought about by Obamacare in the last several years.

In A Nut Shell

  • The Obamacare statue explicitly says that subsidies (to help defray the cost of insurance premiums) are only available for through state exchanges.
  • The reason for this provision was to strong arm states into creating their own exchanges.
  • After the majority of states resisted this federal coercion and refused to create exchanges, the Obama administration backtracked and offered subsidies for the federal exchanges as well as the state exchange. (This is because without the subsidies, the outrageous cost of Obamacare is prohibitive.)
  • King v Burwell is a case challenging the Obama administration’s power to reinterpret the law as passed to suit their wants. It argues that the law specifically says subsidies are only available through state exchanges, and the Obama administration has no power to pay subsidies for everyone apart from Congress changing the statute.
  • The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments for King v Burwell on Wednesday.
  • If the Supreme Court decides against the Obama administration, while it doesn’t mean the automatic end of Obamacare, it does mean there will have to be some serious reforms made my Congress, or else coverage will be prohibitively expensive for millions of Americans.

Further Reading
Check out what the Heritage Foundation says every state lawmaker should do in the wake of King v Burwell