Imran Cronk and Rebecka Rosenquist, MSc
The case King v. Burwell, being argued before the Supreme Court on March 4th, challenges the authority of the Federal Government to issue health insurance premium subsidies on federally-facilitated marketplaces. The question is whether the tax subsidies available on exchanges 'established by the state' were intended to be available on the federal exchange as well.
The case is complex and its verdict could strike at the core of the ACA. The legal question is not constitutional but statutory. Did the IRS correctly interpret language of the ACA? Access to coverage for millions of Americans hangs in the balance.
Sitting as we do at the University of Pennsylvania, we can't help but approach complex matters such as these as any good student would. So here's our syllabus of required reading for King v. Burwell 101.
UNIT 1: BACKGROUND
- NYT Overview of the Issue
- [NYTimes.com/upshot] "Obamacare, Back at the Supreme Court: Frequently Asked Questions": An impressive and extensive resource from Margot Sanger-Katz.
- What is the case about?
- [Vox.com] "King v. Burwell: The new Supreme Court case that could gut Obamacare": Adrianna McIntyre gives an overview of the major aspects of the case, with some discussion on each side's arguments and the implications of the decision.
- [NEJM.org] "Subsidies and ACA Survival -- Divided Decisions on Premium Tax Credits": Timothy Jost analyzes the lower court decisions that brought King v. Burwell all the way to the Supreme Court.
- What are the implications of the Supreme Court taking the case and what's the ruling likely to be?
- [TheIncidentalEconomist.com/] "The Supreme Court will hear King -- That's bad news for the ACA": Nicholas Bagley analyzes the possible outcomes of the Supreme Court decision and discusses the implications of the Court's hearing the case in the first place.
- [WashingtonPost.com] "For Chief Justice John Roberts, anti-Obamacare lawsuit poses major dilemma": Greg Sargent interviews Harvard professor Laurence Tribe on the potential impact that Chief Justice Roberts' vote will have on the decision.
- [NationalJournal.com] "Will John Roberts or Anthony Kennedy Save Obamacare?": Sam Baker looks at how lawyers are tailoring their appeals to the two justices considered to be the 'swing vote'.
UNIT 2: OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS
- Who is behind the suit and what are their motivations?
- [Vox.com] "Meet Michael Cannon, the man who could bring down Obamacare": Sarah Kliff interviews the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon, the leader of the effort to end subsidies on the federal marketplaces.
- [Cato.org] "Cato Institute amici curiae brief to SCOTUS": The brief skewers the individual mandate and its penalty, the employer mandate, and other aspects of the Affordable Care Act's legislation and implementation.
- [Cato.org] "Everything You Need to Know about King v. Burwell": A podcast with Jonathan Adler.
What is the counter-argument from the Obama Administration and its allies?
- [SupremeCourt.gov] "Obama administration amici curiae brief to SCOTUS": The brief provides justification for subsidies on the federal marketplace and explains the crucial role of these tax subsidies in the success of the ACA.
- [AmericanProgress.org] "The Prohibitive Cost of Any Congressional Response to a Ruling Against the Affordable Care Act": Topher Spiro explains how Congress would be fiscally unable to take sufficient steps to address the disruption resulting from a ruling in favor of the petitioners.
- What does it look like when these viewpoints go head-to-head?
- [NIHCM.org] "Webinar: King v. Burwell: Debating the Future of the ACA": A spirited debate between Nicholas Bagley and Michael Cannon.
- [PennLawReview.com] "Debate, King v. Burwell and the Validity of Federal Tax Subsidies Under the Affordable Care Act": If you're up for in-depth legal analysis, Law Profs. Eric Segall and Jonathan Adler debate in the pages of the Penn Law Review.
- [NationalJournal.com] "Why Obamacare will win" and "Why Obamacare will lose": Sam Baker debates himself.
- What do the economists say?
- [LDI.upenn.edu] "52 Economic Scholars Not Friendly to ACA Subsidy Challenge": The amicus brief filed by a notable group of economic scholars reviews the economic underpinnings of insurance markets and explains why subsidies are essential to the central aims of the ACA.
UNIT 3: POTENTIAL IMPACT
- For states?
- [NEJM.org] "Predicting the Fallout from King v. Burwell -- Exchanges and the ACA": Nicholas Bagley, David Jones and Timothy Jost explore the different approaches that states might take if the petitioners' challenge against subsidies is successful.
- [NYTimes.com] "Many States Will Be Unprepared if Court Weakens Health Law": Margot Sanger-Katz takes a detailed look at the obstacles facing states who might construct their own exchanges if federal marketplace subsidies are struck down.
For the Supreme Court?
- [NYTimes.com] "The Supreme Court at Stake: Overturning Obamacare Would Change the Nature of the Supreme Court": Linda Greenhouse warns that the Supreme Court has permitted itself to be recruited to the front lines of a partisan debate and is at peril as a result.
- For Individuals
- [RWJF.org] "The Implications of a Supreme Court Finding for the Plaintiff in King vs. Burwell: 8.2 Million More Uninsured and 35% Higher Premiums": Linda Blumberg, Matthew Buettgens and John Holahan crunch the numbers.