DC Examiner Justice Antonin Scalia, in a scathing dissent, chastised his colleagues for a “quite absurd” decision upholding Obamacare’s federal exchange subsidies, arguing that they disregarded the plain meaning of the law — effectively rewriting it in order to save it from itself.
“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” Scalia said, in a dissent joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
In a 6-3 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court decided that though the text of Obamacare refers to subsidies flowing to individuals purchasing insurance through “an Exchange established by the State,” the broader context of the law makes it clear that the authors intended for the subsidies to be broadly available.
But Scalia argued of the central question as to whether the text of the law limits subsidies: “You would think the answer would be obvious — so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it.”
He continued: “Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.’ It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words ‘established by the State.’ And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words ‘by the State’ other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges.”
However, he said, “normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”
In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the healthcare law’s individual mandate by arguing that it was a tax, a decision which also drew a blistering dissent from Scalia.