ObamaCare: The Great Debate

Robert Frey ’18 – Inside Politics Program

The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has been the issue of debate ever since President Obama signed it into law. Just recently on February 15th 2015, the open enrollment period closed and for any citizen that missed the deadline, a fee must now be paid since they will not have coverage for the upcoming year. Even though ObamaCare is now in full effect, there are still a number of lawsuits that the Supreme Court will hear in the coming term, including King vs. Burwell, that was brought before the court on March 4th.

Politico magazine on February 27, 2015, published an article titled “King vs. Burwell isn’t about ObamaCare it’s all about states’ rights- but the plaintiffs would rather you didn’t know that” by Abbe R. Gluck. In this piece, Gluck argues that the reasoning behind the case King vs. Burwell is that states will face penalties for not setting up their own health insurance state exchange rate. Furthermore, if the states ask for federal help, this will cause “the loss of critical health insurance subsides that make health insurance affordable, and sustain the insurance markets under the law”. The effect of this loss will cause over eight million Americans to lose their insurance coverage and the markets in those states will undoubtedly collapse. According to the article, the main reason why this lawsuit is such a big deal is because the underlying issue at hand is that the government is overreaching its power by getting involved in state affairs. Since the court has a majority of conservative justices, in recent years it has tended to side with the states on issues such as federalism. Since the federal government in ObamaCare gave the states flexibility to do what is best for their state, this penalty goes against the idea that states have more control. Therefore, this is an argument over who has greater control, the states or the federal government.

In an article written by Washington Post author Robert Barnes titled “Obamacare threatens to end John Roberts’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court”, a very interesting point is brought to the table.   With the King vs. Burwell case underway, this would be the Court’s second time deciding on the constitutionality of ObamaCare. Even though the Supreme Court is supposed to be separated from politics, we all know that this is an impossible feat that will never be fully obtained in that the court cannot help but become a tool in political battles. However, the court has made decisions on giving basic rights to detainees in Guantanamo, and upholding gun rights for the individual, so this should seemingly be no different. In a statement about the Washington gridlock and its effect on the court, Roberts stated, “I don’t want it to spill over and affect us.” Moreover, there is still some fear that the decision will come down to another 5-4 final vote regarding ObamaCare and the penalties implemented on the states.

The case of King vs. Burwell is going to be a key facet regarding ObamaCare and the issues of federalism within our nation. If the pieces of ObamaCare are struck down then Congress can amend that section of the program or write new legislation that will coincide with the decision of the Supreme Court. Ultimately, it is unknown whether or not the Republican controlled congress will continue to hold its breath against the President and how long it will take for this debacle to run its course.