Random meditations on a wild day in the appellate courts.
In no particular order…
- “Wait, what???”: That was the dominant response to hearing that two separate appellate courts had made two contradictory decisions regarding to the case of subsidized coverage in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now granted I’m no big city lawyer like this guy, but can that really happen? Can two judicial bodies, on the same level, look at the same evidence and come up with two completely different conclusions based on the same legal logic that both parties swear they follow when ruling on major decisions? Well, clearly the answer is yes.
- Pshhh, Please!: Also, while we’re on the subject, to the multitude of law students and legal experts that insist judges base decisions solely on the letter of the law and not frame the issue with personal judgments, after yesterday – if we’re to assume the same legal logic was used in both decisions – all I got to say to you is…
- What Exactly Happened: Ok now that’s out of the way, yesterday was kind of a major deal for the ACA. Both rulings revolve around the idea whether those signed-up for Healthcare.gov can get subsidies through the 36-federally run exchanges. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that insurance subsidies can only go through the state-run markets, while the Fourth Circuit courts ruled that the program can draw on subsidies for both exchanges. This is such a big deal because federal subsidies are the heart of the ACA. Without it, millions of people will find themselves having to pay so much more for insurance.
- I Still Don’t Get It: To understand the size and scope of this, remember the Hobby Lobby decision that the Supreme Court made a few weeks ago? Many were up in arms over some companies not providing contraception coverage for their female employees. Well this is a whole lot bigger. The covering of contraceptives was just a small part of the healthcare law. Subsidies on the other hand ARE the ACA. This ruling essentially affects everyone. Like literally, EVERYONE!
- On the Media: Somewhere in one of the multiple newsrooms across this great nation of ours, a reporter asked their editor if they should do a follow-up on this story like they had done with the Hobby Lobby decision. But with a silent nod they both knew that it would have to wait. Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s family pictures would have to take the lead on this day!
- So What Happens Now?: Now that we have shit the bed, so to speak, it’s up to mom and dad to clean it up. The next logical step here would be that the Supreme Court picks up the case and makes its final decision. For right now, no one will have their subsidies cut as this legal battle goes continues. As for the 2014 Midterms, don’t be surprised if this comes up as a major talking point for both parties. You might be done with Obamacare debates, but Obamacare debates are not done with you!