The Court Saves the Day—For Insurance Companies

On June 25, 2015, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court saved ObamaCare once again. Appropriately, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the first opinion saving ObamaCare (see "Earl Warren Rides Again"), authored the latest one as well.

The case involved the federal subsidies received by those who purchase health insurance through ObamaCare. The plain text of the Affordable Care Act says that such subsidies are available only to those who purchase a policy through one of the state health-insurance exchanges; but since only 16 states have established such exchanges, most people who have purchased health insurance under ObamaCare have gone through the federal exchange (the one that failed rather dramatically when it first launched).

Predictably, the Obama administration had gone beyond the literal meaning of the law and extended the subsidies to those who purchased through the federal exchange; and now, the Roberts Court has found penumbras and emanations that allow the Republican-appointed Chief Justice to save the day once again.

But, one might ask, to save the day for whom? Obviously, those who've purchased insurance on the federal exchange should breathe a sigh of relief, but the real winner—as in the original passage of ObamaCare—is Big Insurance. As I wrote in the May 2010 issue of Chronicles (see "Insuring Profits"), "Just as Big Pharma was the chief beneficiary of President Bush’s Medicare prescription coverage bill, so Big Insurance has Barack Obama to thank for their coming years of plenty."

As NBC News reported in the wake of John Roberts' second betrayal, "The health insurance industry had warned that if the challenge succeeded, the Affordable Care Act would have entered a 'death spiral'—with costs rising for a shrinking number of participants, eventually causing the system to collapse."

In other countries, we would call government subsidies to large industries "corporatism" or even "national socialism." Here in the good ol' U.S.A., however, it goes by the name of "free enterprise."

Scott P. Richert

Scott P. Richert

Scott P. Richert is editor at large for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and Publisher for Our Sunday Visitor. He holds an M.A. in political theory from the Catholic University of America. He has been published in, among others, The Family in America, This World, and Humanitas. He is the Catholicism Expert for

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