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What Brookings experts are saying about the King v. Burwell oral arguments

Brookings health care expert Henry Aaron visited the Supreme Court on March 4 to hear oral arguments from both sides of the King v. Burwell case.

At stake in the forthcoming decision—which likely won’t be delivered until June—is whether people living in a state that opted not to build its own exchange under the ACA are eligible for federal subsidies. (If you want to know more background information on the case, check out this great explainer from the Hutchins Center Explains series.)

After listening to today’s proceedings at the Court, Aaron highlighted several noteworthy aspects of the oral arguments, including an important question from Justice Ginsburg on whether the plaintiffs even have standing to challenge the law. In the end, Aaron predicts what we’ll hear from the Court in June:

The wait—and the guessing game—begins. Hints gleaned from oral arguments are notoriously unreliable and (let’s face it) pointless. So, in full awareness that such guesses are close to fatuous, here is mine: the government prevails, 6 to 3. The four liberals, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, will be joined in concurring opinions by Kennedy and Roberts. Alito, Scalia, and Thomas will dissent emphatically and, if Justice Scalia writes the dissent, acerbically.

You can read the full piece by Aaron here.

Here are a few other things Brookings experts have been saying about the King v. Burwell case:

  • Richard Lempert says that in cases like King v. Burwell, the Court is called upon to do its best to interpret what those who enacted the law intended. “The literal meaning of words is the starting point for analysis,” he writes.  “And for a few Justices, perhaps including Scalia and Thomas, the ending point as well.”
  • Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), John Kline (R-Min.), and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) are putting forth a new proposal to replace the ACA. Stuart Butler answers an important question: Could the Ryan proposal shape the future of the American health system?
  • In a recent Brookings Cafeteria Podcast, Alice Rivlin said “there is no doubt, and most people think there is no doubt, that the Congress intended to extend the subsidies under the ACA to all Americans who qualified for them no matter where they lived.”

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