King vs. Burwell is dead and the Affordable Care Act required no time in the recovery room before springing out of the Supreme Court building and into a permanent place in American life. The Supremes ruled today, 6-3, that the brief words, “an exchange established by the state”, would not rifle a plan that has provided health care coverage for eight million people.
The no votes, were Samuel Alito, the fire spitting Antonin Scalia and his appendix and doorstop, Clarence Thomas. The majority held that the words, “..established by the state”, may refer to both individual state exchanges as well as states which rely on the federal government to administer the Affordable Care Act for them.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that it was “inconceivable” that the Affordable Care Act would be written to purposely exclude those who lived in states without state exchanges. The Majority also decided that other parts of the ACA as written made it clear enough that the law was intended to apply to all Americans eligible for the federal stipends that make the difference between millions having access to care and going without it. Had the law gone down, insurance companies would have ratcheted up rates to make up for people in 34 states who would have lost their care without those stipends. Like any insurance program, you need to have enough customers paying in to make the rates affordable.
King v. Burwell was cooked up by right wing think tanks and more than one named plaintiff in the suit was not even qualified to be attached to this desperate attempt to destroy the ACA. One named plaintiff was living in a hotel when she signed on and having no legal address, was not eligible. Scalia, never one to miss any opportunity to make an ass of himself, bitterly exclaimed that the ACA should now be called SCOTUSCARE.
The ACA has been declared safe for now, along with President Obama’s legacy. The next GOP President who soils the Oval Office with his presence will set about trying to tear it all down again and the American people deserve to know that they will not have to worry about seeing a doctor anymore, no matter who is accepting checks from insurance company lobbyists. The fulminations of The Heritage Foundation painted the ruling in apocalyptic terms, as zealots always do.
John Beohner began issuing threats only seconds after the 6-3 decision went public. He has vowed to appeal and those same right wing think tanks are already recruiting a passel of fresh dupes to attach their sorry names to another run at the Supreme Court. Lower courts had turned away Burwell and the Supremes took it on anyway. Many feared that they did so to administer the death blow but having ruled against the first challenge to the law, maybe they took on this recent case to affirm the ACA’s fitness to apply to all states and not only the ones with their own exchanges.
The Court could have easily looked to the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. That clause requires all federally passed laws to apply to “the several states”, in the words of the 14th. That means all of them, Justice Scalia. The ACA law gave states the right to turn away the federal money to establish state exchanges and in most red states, the money was rejected for partisan spite and not for the needs of the citizens in those states. Giving states the choice was illegal under the Constitution. There have been 50 votes to repeal the ACA since the law passed in 2010 with Obama’s veto pen at the ready. They were merely temper tantrums, exercises in spite, spleen venting, partisan stubbornness and ritual demonstrations of dirt kissing subservience to their corporate paymasters. Representative Jan Shakowsky points out the importance of the ACA for women in particular.
Today’s ruling is heartening but make no mistake. You are not a real citizen of this country and neither am I, unless we have pockets deep enough to buy who we need to deliver the things we want. The GOP will continue to fight to take away your healthcare because you are not their client. You are in the way of their clients. For now, the Democrats were lucky for today’s decision because the ACA was not written tightly enough to ward off these ridiculous challenges. Most critics will never take it as a good thing that millions now have care where there was none before, that costs are coming down and The United States is no longer the only Western nation to not make health care available to its people.
Our system is rotten to the husk but the Supremes voted 6-3 to keep a health care life line in the water. Maybe Alito, Scalia and Thomas are drowning their sorrows somewhere tonight. If they end the evening unfit to drive, they will wake the next morning in the more embarrassing condition of being unfit to sport unflattering, black robes. They will continue to treat the law like their beverages of choice, a convenience to be used as the mood strikes and with little to no responsibility. When the tab comes for their reckless choices, they will leave that for the public, who must soberly live with their willful incompetence.
As to the GOP, their continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act is only a Band Aid covering their chronic wounds of ego, corruption, hyper partisanship and that jaundiced pallor that comes with sharing its collective sick bed with only the richest. The oligarchs need not worry about contagion though. They catch special treatment like a virus.