On March 10, 2010, President Obama signed a bill into law which greatly altered how health insurance is designed, bought, and sold. The law is titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” but is also known as Obamacare, because President Obama greatly favors the bill and because the President has endorsed this name. Recently, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that may be the end of this new law. The case, King v. Burwell, focuses on the source of subsidies that many receive who are insured under the new law. The court case touches on the constitutional issues of how laws are implemented, the meaning of words, and the separation of powers between the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Insurance is a funny product. The buyer purchases it with the hopes he will never use it, or at least hoping he won’t use it too much. The insurance company selling it makes a bet that the buyer will also not use too much of the insurance, and determines the price of it depending on the person’s age and health. So health insurance is a product bought and sold by people who hope the user will not really use it.
In the U.S.A., from 1789-2010, the U.S. government had stayed out of forcing an American to buy something. Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that the government has the power to force someone to purchase a product. This is because the American Founding Fathers believed in the free market and that the American government should be limited in its power. Obamacare changed the relationship between Americans and their government. Obamacare established the precedent that the government can compel its citizens to purchase products that the government decides is good for them.
In the U.S. government, there are three separate branches, each with its own powers. American founding fathers established the government this way so that not one branch would become too powerful. The executive branch (President) is to carry out the law, the legislative branch (Congress) is to write the law, and the judicial branch (Supreme Court and all federal courts) is to decide the legality of the law.
In the court case, King v. Burwell, plaintiffs argue that the Obama administration is not following the law, but is instead changing the law and thus, acting like the lawmaker, Congress. The defense argues that the Obama administration is correctly acting within its powers of the executive branch, and is merely interpreting the law so that it makes sense and works. Does the law mean what is written, or does it mean what the President says it means? This is one of the questions the Supreme Court justices are deciding.
At issue is how Americans receive subsidies to help pay for their health insurance. As the law is written, only citizens in states that set up their own exchanges, or markets, will receive subsidies. A chief architect of the law, Jonathan Gruber, was videotaped multiple times explaining that the Obama administration wrote the law this way to force states to set up their own exchanges, and that whichever state did not set up the exchange, would risk having their citizens not receive subsidies. Obama, however, is currently directing the federal government to offer subsidies to citizens of over 30 states, because these states decided not to set up the exchanges. These states argue that the Obama administration is taking power illegally, creating a federal government that is taking over the rights of the state governments.
It is believed the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on King v Burwell in June. If the Supreme Court decides the Obama administration is acting unconstitutionally, the federal government will cease offering subsidies to citizens in those states that chose to not have state exchanges, and the words of a law will determine its meaning. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the Obama administration, it will mean Obamacare will continue as it is, and most likely, that whoever is the Presidents receives great freedom in determining what a law means, even if it means going against the meaning of the words used in creating the law.
1. What is Obamacare?
2. What is King v. Burwell?
3. What is the argument in King v. Burwell?
4. How is this a Constitutional issue?
5. How do you think the Supreme Court justices should decide? Explain your answer.
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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