Justice Scalia's Legacy in ACA Cases


By Hadley Heath

Supreme Court Justice and conservative legal mastermind Antonin Scalia passed away on February 13. His legacy runs far and wide and deep, touching a host of legal issues. On the HealthCareLawsuits blog, we will flag a few ways Scalia impacted the Supreme Court cases related to the Affordable Care Act:

In 2012, Scalia dissented with the majority (5-4) that upheld the ACA's individual mandate. He sided with six other justices to rule that the law's Medicaid expansion should be optional for states.

In 2014, Scalia joined the majority (5-4) to rule against the government in the Hobby Lobby case on the law's contraception mandate.

In 2015, Scalia authored the dissenting opinion in King v. Burwell, the case that upheld (5-4) the ACA's subsidies and tax credits. The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon writes about Scalia's dissent:

While the majority dismissed or expressly refused to consider parts of the ACA that contradicted its interpretation, Scalia took the time to examine every argument and the entire statute. He methodically and efficiently debunked each argument the majority offered for ignoring what everyone knows the law says. He showed how the majority’s interpretation directly conflicts with multiple provisions of the ACA, including the operative text and the provisions the majority conveniently refused to consider. He famously, colorfully, and characteristically described the majority’s reasoning as interpretive jiggery-pokery” and “pure applesauce.” 

This year, as the Court examines a case similar to Hobby Lobby, Scalia's vote will be sorely missed. The Little Sisters of the Poor case (which has now been combined with other similar cases) will be heard before the Court on March 23. Should the Court rule 4-4 on this case in Scalia's absence, then the lower court rulings on this issue will stand. The Little Sisters lost their case at the 10th Circuit, so a 4-4 ruling at the Supreme Court would essentially mean a loss for them. 


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