Two Supremely Important Decisions: Healthcare and Gay Marriage

Over the past several years, two of the biggest national policy issues have been the advance of same sex marriage and President Obama’s healthcare law. These have dominated the national conversation and have affected the lives of countless Americans. And the future of both may finally be decided this year in the nation’s highest court.

This past week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a new challenge to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The court had decided on the law’s general constitutionality, specifically the insurance mandate, back in 2012, eventually ruling that the law was constitutional under the federal government’s ability to tax those who opt out of buying insurance. Now the law is back in the court.

At issue is whether states with federally organized health exchanges can offer subsidies to middle and lower income Americans. Currently, 16 states have set up their own exchanges (for example, Covered California) while the rest have opted instead to use the federal exchange on healthcare.gov. Millions of Americans rely on federal subsidies to afford health care, and the overall functioning of the system depends on a broad base of people buying insurance – not just those prone to being sick. Otherwise, insurance costs would skyrocket, resulting in a large portion of Americans being unable to afford care.

Those who brought the case to the Supreme Court argue that the Affordable Care Act, as technically written, says that financial assistance would be available only to those who bought health plans through “…an exchange established by the state.” They argue that this was done intentionally by Congress to incentivize states to set up their own exchanges and that offering subsidies to buyers on the federal exchange is therefore illegal.

Opponents to this say that the Affordable Care Act, like other laws, must be interpreted as a whole. An individual phrase must be read and acted upon within the broader context of the law. They also take issue with the idea that Congress intended to pressure states to set up their own exchanges, saying that the law clearly intended for people to be able to receive subsidies even in states that didn’t set up exchanges.

The court will issue its decision by the end of June. It will be a critical moment for the lives of millions of Americans, as their ability to afford insurance will hang in the balance.

What are your thoughts on the law? Should the Supreme Court uphold federal subsidies to Americans?

Should The Supreme Court Uphold Federal Healthcare Subsidies?

Obamacare is back in the Supreme Court.

 

And then there’s gay marriage. Last week, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in late April on whether bans on same sex marriage are constitutional.

By any metric, the advance of marriage equality over the last decade has been staggering. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage. Now, same sex marriages are legal in 37 states and 60% of Americans support legal recognition for same sex couples.

The issue was also in the news last week when the Alabama State Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roy Moore, issued an order prohibiting the state’s judges from giving marriage licenses to same sex couples. This came after a federal court ruled that Alabama’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, setting up a rare showdown between federal and state judiciaries.

This won’t be the first time the Supreme Court has dealt with same sex marriage. In 2013, the high court decided to uphold a decision by a lower federal court that California’s voter approved ban on gay marriage – Proposition 8 – was unconstitutional. This may be the last time the court weighs in on the issue, however, as this ruling will decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage at all. The ruling is expected by the end of June.

Where do you stand? Should same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry? Vote and comment here.

Should the Supreme Court Establish A Constitutional Right To Same Sex Marriage?

Starting on April 28th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether states have the right to ban same sex marriages.

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