Health­care on the docket as jus­tices open new ses­sion

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEKE AHEAD - —Bob Her­man

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.

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