President Obama suggested Monday that the Supreme Court should never have taken up King v. Burwell, the latest challenge to his health care law.
“This should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up,” Obama said to reporters following the G-7 summit.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the Internal Revenue Service has the authority to allow consumers enrolled in the federal exchange to purchase Affordable Care Act subsidies. The law currently says these tax credits are only eligible under exchanges “established by the State.” The Court is expected to announce a decision by the end of June.
The president expressed confidence in a “quick” ruling, adding that “it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.”
He warned that the challenge, based on “a contorted reading” and “twisted interpretation of four words” in the Affordable Care Act could result in a detrimental blow to millions who rely on subsidies for health care.
Heritage Foundation data released last week found that the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect how much Americans in 34 states pay for health insurance
According to the report, in the states potentially affected by the ruling, regulations in the Affordable Care Act have increased health care costs for about 6.4 million receiving subsidies along with another 15 million who do not receive a subsidy, and in turn pay more for their health insurance under the law.
The report cites a previous Heritage study finding that Congress could lower the cost of premiums for these 34 states if they eliminated three of the law’s most expensive regulations: the federal benefit mandates, the minimum actuarial value requirement and the restrictions on age-rating.
John Malcolm, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, said the health care subsidies were offered as an “inducement” to encourage states to set up their own exchanges. Without this incentive, Malcolm continued, the federal government could not compel states to set up these exchanges.
Malcolm said the Obama administration “miscalculated” in assuming that the subsidies would push most states to set up these exchanges. This miscalculation led the administration to use an IRS interpretation, allowing extended tax credits through what he called a “creative” and “erroneous” interpretation of “state” to mean “federal government.”
“I agree with the president that the case should be ‘easy’ to decide since by the letter of the statute, tax credits are available only to those who purchase insurance on an exchange ‘established by the State,’ not to those who purchase insurance through the federally-run exchange,” he said.
“When Congress passes a law that says one thing, the administration should not be able to ‘interpret’ that law so as to argue that Congress really meant the exact opposite of the plain language contained in the statute they passed.”