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On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the second major case before it which will determine the future of ObamaCare, King v. Burwell. Unlike the first case, this second case does not deal with the constitutionality of ObamaCare but instead deals with its terminology. ObamaCare basically grants health insurance subsidies to people who obtain coverage "through an Exchange established by the State." The plaintiffs argue that the statute means what it says, and thus the ObamaCare subsidies should not be available to residents in the States that have not established an Exchange, currently some 34 States. The residents of these States have to use the federal website exchange to obtain insurance rather than any exchange established by the State.

It appears that four liberal justices on the Court are ready to look to the overall purposes of ObamaCare rather than the literal reading of the key portion of the statute. Many believe that if the federal government’s current interpretation of the statute is rejected, then ObamaCare would largely stop in those States without a state exchange. The final outcome may rest upon the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered a moderate on many issues, and Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted to uphold the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

If the government interpretation of the application of ObamaCare in all states is rejected, enormous legislative issues will immediately appear both on the state and federal levels. The States will determine whether or not to add State exchanges, and Congress will determine whether to amend ObamaCare.

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

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