When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the most recent legal battle involving the Affordable Care Act on March 4, Professor Robert Field covered the historic event for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On March 5, Field’s story appeared on the front page of the Inquirer, under the headline, “Round 3 for Obamacare.”
The case before the court could significantly undermine the landmark law, if a majority agrees to deny tax subsidies to insurance buyers in 34 states that use the federal exchange to sell individual policies.
Those challenging the law, Field wrote, “cite four words in the law noting that subsidies are available only where the exchanges have been ‘established by the state.’”
Liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, challenged the challengers’ interpretation of the law, while conservatives Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia questioned the federal government’s ability to establish a “state exchange,” Field wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts, one swing vote in the controversial case, was “notably silent through most of the questioning” while Justice Anthony Kennedy, another, “was harder to read,” Field observed.
The article noted that nearly 472,000 Pennsylvania residents and nearly 253,000 New Jersey residents have obtained health insurance through the federal exchange and that, nationwide, upwards of 7 million people have received coverage through the health care exchanges.
Field also discussed the arguments on WHYY’s program, the Pulse, on March 6.
"The stakes are so high," Field said. "Even though this case would not invalidate the whole law, it would make it unworkable in those 34 states. Which means in two-thirds of the United States, we wouldn't have Obamacare."
Field recently returned from a lecture tour of public health schools in Europe, where he discussed the Affordable Care Act and the American health care system at the University of Copenhagen, École des Hautes Études en Santé Publique in Rennes, France, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands.