Obamacare lawsuits

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was passed in its finality on March 21, 2010, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.[1]

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius

The United States Supreme Court ruled to uphold Obamacare in a court case decided June 28, 2012. The 5-4 decision to uphold the law hinged on the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. According to the Court, the Commerce Clause did not permit the federal penalties of remaining uninsured after the law went into effect. However, the penalties can be collected as a tax. Explaining the ruling, Justice John Roberts wrote, "The court today holds that our Constitution protects us from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause so long as we abstain from the regulated activity. But from its creation, the Constitution has made no such promise with respect to taxes."[2]

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; Burwell v. Conestoga Wood Specialties

On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court heard the case put forward by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The case argued that mandated coverage of birth control violated religious freedoms. Both companies' appeals were heard together during a one-hour public session.[3]

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on June 30, 2014. The 5-4 decision allowed companies to opt out of offering contraceptives on the basis of religious beliefs. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court's opinion, stating, "We doubt that the Congress that enacted RFRA — or, for that matter, ACA–would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans."[4]

The dissenting justices claimed the ruling would allow companies to "opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs." Likewise, the Obama administration argued that companies that did not wish to provide the contraceptive coverage or other areas of coverage due to religious beliefs could decide not to provide any company-wide options.[4]

Although the decision expanded the notion of corporate personhood to include religious rights "to provide protection for human beings," members of the public found it highly divisive in nature as it reaffirmed the Court's "pro-business" stance.[5] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pledged to restore the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage, stating, "If the Supreme Court will not protect women’s access to health care, then Democrats will. We will continue to fight to preserve women’s access to contraceptive coverage and keep bosses out of the examination room."[6]

Contraceptive exemptions

The case argued for the exemptions from coverage of four different contraceptives, two emergency morning after pills and two intrauterine devices (IUDs), on the basis that those contraceptives were forms of abortion according to their religious beliefs. The company did not argue against providing most common forms of birth control.[7] A spokesperson for Americans United for Life, a supporter of the Hobby Lobby case against the government, stated, "Today’s decision is based on the Court accepting as the owners’ sincere religious belief that these drugs and devices can destroy an embryo and end a human life."[8]

However, experts from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, refuted the idea that the contraceptives caused abortions, stating, "Emergency contraception will not disrupt an established pregnancy. Women often are exposed to exogenous hormones in early pregnancy without adverse outcome. Some women undergoing assisted reproductive technology procedures to achieve pregnancy are routinely prescribed progesterone to support the pregnancy."[8]

State-level lawsuits

Halbig v. Sebelius

Halbig v. Sebelius was filed with the intention of nullifying the premium tax credits through the federal exchange by pointing out the language of the law stated, that the tax credits were only permitted to "an exchange established by the State," not the federal exchange.[9] On July 22, 2014, the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Halbig in Halbig v. Burwell. The court determined that the law's written language, allowing tax credits to those using exchanges "established by the State," meant that only those using the state exchanges were eligible for tax credits but not those using the federal exchange. Judge Thomas Griffith, who wrote the opinion of the court, explained the discrepancy, writing, "On its face, this provision authorizes tax credits for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. See 42 U.S.C. § 18024(d). But the Internal Revenue Service has interpreted section 36B broadly to authorize the subsidy also for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by the federal government under section 1321 of the Act." The decision came in at 2-1.[10]

A U.S. Department of Justice quickly stated that the department would seek an en banc review of the Halbig decision, claiming, "We believe that this decision is incorrect, inconsistent with congressional intent, different from previous rulings, and at odds with the goal of the law: to make health care affordable no matter where people live."[11] Two other similar cases are pending in district courts.[10]

En banc review

Due in part to the use of the "nuclear option" in the Senate in December 2013, President Obama was able to appoint three judges to the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. While the initial ruling in the court went 2-1 in favor of Halbig, an en banc review would place the case in front of the entire bench of 11 judges in the D.C. Circuit. Seven of those judges were appointed by Democratic presidents while only four were appointed by Republicans.[12]

King v. Burwell

King v. Burwell was filed in Virginia with the intention of nullifying the premium tax credits on the same grounds as Halbig v. Sebelius.[13] On July 22, 2014, the same day as a conflicting ruling in Halbig v. Burwell, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of Burwell in King v. Burwell, claiming the language was ambiguous, upholding the legality of the tax credits.[14]

Supreme Court petition

The plaintiffs petitioned the United States Supreme Court to make a decision on the tax credits awarded through the federal exchange. The coordinator of the plaintiffs' case, Sam Kazman, said in a statement, "From the time these cases were first filed, we’ve tried to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible for the plaintiffs and the millions of individuals like them. A fast resolution is also vitally important to the states that chose not to set up exchanges, to the employers in those states who face either major compliance costs or huge penalties, and to employees who face possible layoffs or reductions in their work hours as a result of this illegal IRS rule. Our petition today to the Supreme Court represents the next step in that process."[15]

Indiana v. IRS

Like King and Halbig, the State of Indiana raised a suit against the IRS in an attempt to nullify the premium tax credits given to those using the federal exchanges to purchase healthcare plans.[16]

Boehner lawsuit

See also: Boehner's lawsuit against the Obama administration
John Boehner
Claiming President Obama "changed the healthcare law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it," Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced a lawsuit focusing on the president's failure to enforce the employer mandate as written in the ACA.[17] A draft resolution to for a Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) was introduced on July 10, 2014, by House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX).[18][19]

Recent news

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See also

External links


  1. New York Times, "Obama Signs Health Care Overhaul Bill, With a Flourish," March 23, 2010
  2. Christian-Science Monitor, "How John Roberts upheld health-care law while limiting congressional power," June 28, 2012
  3. CNN, "Justices to hear 'Hobby Lobby' case on Obamacare birth control rule," March 23, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Politico, "Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby on contraception mandate," June 30, 2014
  5. Reuters, "U.S. birth control ruling fuels battle over corporate rights," July 1, 2014
  6. Politico, "SCOTUS sides with Hobby Lobby on birth control," June 30, 2014
  7. Christian-Science Monitor, "Hobby Lobby 101: explaining the Supreme Court's birth control ruling," July 10, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 L.A. Times, "The craziest thing about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision," June 30, 2014
  9. National Review, "Forget Hobby Lobby—This Case Could Wreck Obamacare," July 7, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Washington Post, "BREAKING — D.C. Circuit strikes down tax credits in federal exchanges," July 22, 2014
  11. Politico, "DOJ to appeal ‘incorrect’ Halbig ruling," July 22, 2014
  12. Politico, "How Obama’s court strategy may help save Obamacare," July 23, 2014
  13. Constitutional Accountability Center, "King v. Sebelius," accessed July 8, 2014
  14. Reuters, "Separate U.S. appeals court upholds subsidies under Obama health law," July 22, 2014
  15. The Hill, "High court asked to rule on ObamaCare subsidies," July 31, 2014
  16. Reuters, "Indiana government, school districts sue over IRS healthcare rule," October 8, 2014
  17. L.A. Times, "House lawsuit over Obamacare to focus on employer mandate delay," July 10, 2014
  18. CNN.com, "Boehner plans lawsuit against Obama over executive orders," accessed July 8, 2014
  19. Politico, "GOP’s Obama lawsuit to focus on employer mandate," July 10, 2014