On Friday November 7, 2014, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would “consider” a new major legal challenge to the Affordable Health Care Act. This happened three days after voters in the United States voted in the “mid-term” election on November 4, 2014. Mid-Term because it is in the middle of the term of the President of the United States. The balloting was for members of the United States Congress: the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The election results were regarded as a resounding victory for the Republican Party. The Republicans gained voting control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The forced coincidence is not likely an indication of the Justice’s willingness to rule on the Affordable Health Care Act, but to political pundits it resounds as such. For those who want to believe that the Justices are over anxious to gut the Affordable Health Care Act, there other unfortunate facts. On the top of the list is the fact that there no split in decisions coming up from the Federal Courts.
The Supreme Court, as the final arbiter of the meaning of law, is constitutionally empowered to rule when there are conflicts in lower courts or constitutional issues of great importance. Depending on how you want to see it: either the Supreme Court feels empowered or obligated to follow the politics of Republican Party stalwarts, or, it has been unfairly placed in the light of that accusation. You be the judge. But the Court has agreed to hear a case about how the Health Care Act is provided funding from a tax on medical devices. The case they selected comes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The Supreme Court Justices agreed to reconsider that ruling, which again looks like the judges are political operatives emboldened to do the bidding of Tea Party Republicans.
The aspect of the law that the Court has agreed to review gives them an opportunity to reverse their findings that permit the law to function. The ruling to be reviewed concerns the Act’s system of subsidizing policies required by the law. Subsidies are granted to Americans whose income is low. The subsidies are not grants of free insurance, but lower premiums to those required to pay for their own policies. More than five millions Americans are currently able to take subsidies to lower their actual out of pocket costs for health insurance. Those who qualify for a subsidy have their premiums costs reduced by as much as 76%, dropping the average monthly premium for those who need subsidies from $346 per month to $82 per month. Any ruling eliminating the subsidies would constitute a major blow to the act. If the Supreme Court reverses its previous ruling on these issues it would invalidate subsidies in thirty-six states.