Supreme Court Upholds Subsidies in King v. Burwell

Catching SCOTUS-watchers by surprise in an early announcement, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-3 decision, that individuals who enroll in health insurance through the Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) may continue to receive federal tax subsidies to help pay for their coverage. The decision in King v. Burwell preserves health security for the 6.4 million people whose premium tax credits were at risk, and the stability of the individual health insurance market in the 34 FFM states threatened by the prospect of a "death spiral" of higher rates and smaller and sicker enrollment. The case hinged on competing theories of statutory interpretation. While the Court could have delivered a partial victory to the government by deferring to the agency’s interpretation of the statute (under the oft-cited Chevron precedent), it instead went the extra step of finding that the statute must be read to make tax subsidies available in FFM states. Hence, future administrations will be bound to the Court’s interpretation of the statute, and cannot eliminate subsidies without Congressional action.

Ruling Prompts New Push for Medicaid Expansion

In his statement immediately following the King v. Burwell decision, President Obama went on record with his next pressing ACA priority: “I'm going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens.” The President will visit Tennessee on Wednesday, reports The Tennessean, where Governor Haslam (R) has been unable to expand Medicaid, despite numerous efforts, due to opposition in the legislature. Governor Haslam has expressed uncertainty on how the ruling will impact expansion in Tennessee, reports the Times Free Press, but some legislative Democrats have urged the governor to call State lawmakers back for a special session. In the days following the ruling, governors of Missouri and Virginia also renewed their calls to support Medicaid expansion in connection with the King v. Burwell outcome.