Obamacare’s future likely in the hands of Roberts and Kennedy

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    The nine justices of the Supreme Court heard challenges to Obamacare's subsidies yesterday.  (Steve Petteway/from the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

    The nine justices of the Supreme Court heard challenges to Obamacare's subsidies yesterday. (Steve Petteway/from the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

    An idealogical divide in the court over Obamacare could mean swing votes may decide the fate of the law.

    The Supreme Court is in the process of making a decision on the case that is challenging the Affordable Care Act , more specifically, some of the subsidies people are receiving to pay for their health insurance plans.

    Robert Field, professor of law and professor of health management at Drexel University, was in the courtroom during the proceedings. He said there are four words fueling the debate right now.

    “Established by the state,” Field said. “The phrase is talking about who is entitled to subsidies when they go on one of the exchanges to buy insurance.”

    Field said the Obama Administration assumed everyone would get a subsidy in every state, but that’s not what happened. Sixteen states established exchanges, but the remaining 34 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, refused, so residents of those states have to go to HealthCare.gov—a federally run exchange—to get their health coverage.

    Field said the mood in the courtroom was quite tense, and for good reason.

    “The stakes are so high,” Field said. “Even though this case would not invalidate the whole law, it would make it unworkable in those 34 states. Which means in two-thirds of the United States, we wouldn’t have Obamacare.”

    The court will take a preliminary vote at the end of this week, and, like many experts, Field thinks Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy may be the swing votes in the decision. He said it’s likely a lot is happening behind the scenes at the Supreme Court right now.

    When asked for a prediction about the result, which will likely come down on the last day of the high court’s current session in late June, Field says he senses a victory for Obamacare could be in the making.

    To hear the entire discussion about the case, listen to the interview above. For additional information and coverage, visit SCOTUSblog.com.

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