Judge Nap: ‘Bizarre Contortions’ by Roberts in New ObamaCare Ruling
In a big victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court has upheld subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act.
The challenge in King v. Burwell centered around whether health care subsidies could be provided by the federal government to residents of states that did not set up health care exchanges.
A ruling against the administration would have threatened subsidies in nearly three-dozen states. For months, though, the administration said it had no back-up plans, confident the Supreme Court would rule in its favor.
The Supreme Court previously upheld the law’s individual mandate in 2012, in a 5-4 decision.
This time, the justices said the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law.
Chief Justice John Roberts again voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a dissenter in 2012, was part of the majority on Thursday.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
Opponents argued that the subsidies were designed to apply only to people who signed up for health exchanges that were “established by the state,” not by the federal government.
President Obama was very outspoken on this case, saying the court should not have taken it up in the first place.
Judge Andrew Napolitano reacted on “America’s Newsroom,” calling out Chief Justice John Roberts for the “unheard-of” way in which he reached this decision.
Napolitano said he believes Roberts “will continue to undermine his own credibility as a fair-minded jurist because he has reached to bizarre and odd contortions in order to save this statute twice.”
“This is a weird and unpredictable outcome,” he said.
In this case, Roberts decided that the words “established by the state” are ambiguous. Napolitano said Roberts’ stance is that the court can “correct the ambiguity according to what they thought the drafters meant.”
Napolitano called the dissenting opinion from Justice Antonin Scalia “as compelling and as stinging as any dissent that I have seen.”
The judge read from Scalia’s dissent: “words no longer have meaning if an exchange that is not established by a state, is established by the state.”
“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” Scalia wrote.
Napolitano said there is a school of thought among appellate judges that a court “should bend over backwards to save a statute rather than to invalidate it because some very small portion of it is inconsistent with the rest.”
But he said that this is not what happened today.
“What [Roberts] did was to suggest that plain, ordinary English words, which are not ambiguous in their meaning, somehow to the six of the justices in the majority are ambiguous and therefore they can interpret them however they want,” said Napolitano.
He added that the court wanted to save ObamaCare for political reasons and “found a way to get there.”
Back in 2012, Roberts was the tie-breaker in a 5-4 decision that upheld the law’s individual mandate. He said the requirement for Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty was justifiable as a form of taxation.