A. Barton Hinkle on the Four Little Words That Could Kill Obamacare


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"Established by the State." Those four little words, explains A. Barton Hinkle, could be the undoing of Obamacare. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear King v. Burwell, a case challenging the government's authority to subsidize insurance purchased on federal health-care exchanges. In the view of Obamacare's critics, the question at the heart of the case is simplicity itself: One section of the Affordable Care Act stipulates that insurance subsidies shall be provided in any exchange "established by the State." Federal exchanges are not established by the state. Therefore, the federal government cannot subsidize policies bought on exchanges in the two-thirds of states that did not set up their own exchange. Washington has been doing just that up to now, thanks to the IRS' contested interpretation of the law.

If the Court agreed with the law's critics, then millions of Americans would find themselves forced'"by the ACA's individual mandate'"to buy policies they cannot afford. That would be devastating to them and, ultimately, to the ACA.