Healthcare on the docket as justices open new session
The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new session Monday that features important healthcare cases. But some legal experts doubt the justices will take up the big issue of whether Obamacare’s premium subsidies are legal in 36 states using the federal insurance exchange.
Federal district and appellate courts have been wrestling with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s language on premium tax credits, which are key to making coverage affordable to millions of Americans. Last week, a federal judge in Oklahoma said the subsidies violate the law. But one federal appellate court has upheld the subsidies, while another threw out a panel decision blocking the subsidies and is rehearing the issue.
It’s likely the justices will wait to see if a split emerges between the appellate courts, said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, and Margaret Foster Riley, a law professor at the University of Virginia. If the justices do take the case now—and that would only require the votes of four justices—the court likely would not make an announcement until November, said Lyle Denniston, a vet- eran Supreme Court reporter who writes for SCOTUSblog.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a case from Idaho on whether healthcare providers have the right to sue states to force them to raise their Medicaid payment rates. Another pending case centers on whether investors can sue Omnicare, a pharmacy services company, over statements of opinion that turned out to be wrong. And in a case with broader antitrust implications, the justices will decide whether the North Carolina dental board violated antitrust law by blocking nondentists from providing teethwhitening services.