Supreme Court Gets Second Shot at Health Law

NYT FDCarl Hulse March 4, 2015

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Good Wednesday morning from Washington, where questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private emails continue to percolate, Iran’s nuclear aspirations have re-emerged as the topic of the hour, and even though it is March, more snow is on the way. President Obama is preparing for a trip to Selma, Ala., this weekend, but he might have health care on his mind. That’s because, once again, the Affordable Care Act is having its day in court.

The fight over the Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the justices hear arguments in a conservative challenge that could determine the future of the insurance program that now covers millions of people.

An hour of argument is scheduled and much of the attention will be focused on questioning by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who helped preserve the health law in an earlier case, as well as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Those men are considered the two votes crucial to deciding the outcome of the case, King v. Burwell.

Opponents of the law charge that Congress never meant to allow the government to grant tax subsidies to consumers who buy their health insurance through federal exchanges that were set up where states refused to participate. The White House and Democratic defenders of the law say that that is a distortion, and that Congress clearly meant the subsidies to be available nationwide.

No decision is expected until late June. The case represents the second big draw on Capitol Hill in two days, after the address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday. Spectators are expected to line up for a chance to witness the argument, and admission has been tough to gain because of the strong demand.