December 10, 2019

SAVING REPUBLICANS FROM THEMSELVES:

Obamacare had an unusually good day at the Supreme Court: As many as six justices appeared bothered by a Republican effort to undercut the Affordable Care Act. (Ian Millhiser  Dec 10, 2019, Vox)

Maine Community involves about $12 billion in payments owed to health insurers under a program known as "risk corridors." Obamacare's risk corridors program sought to encourage insurers to enter an uncertain new market by agreeing to reimburse a portion of their losses if the insurance company set premiums too low.

After many insurers agreed to sell plans on the Obamacare marketplace, Congress enacted a provision in an appropriations bill -- a provision known as a "rider" -- seeking to prevent the government from making most of the payments under the risk corridor program. The question in Maine Community is whether the government is still obligated by the Affordable Care Act's original promise to make these payments, or whether the rider effectively ended the requirement.

A bipartisan mix of justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Justice Samuel Alito, all had difficult questions for Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the insurers. Ginsburg, in particular, asked whether Obamacare's language, which provides that the government "shall pay" its obligations under the risk corridor program, also permits the insurance companies to sue the government if the money is not paid.

Yet only Alito appeared to be a certain vote against the insurers. By the end of arguments, six justices -- Roberts and Ginsburg, plus Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Brett Kavanaugh -- all appeared likely to rule in favor of the insurers. Neither Justice Clarence Thomas nor Justice Neil Gorsuch spoke up during the session.

Posted by at December 10, 2019 1:41 PM

  

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