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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Brews and Views: A Refreshing Take on King vs. Burwell

Brews and Views: A Refreshing Take on King vs. Burwell

The Affordable Care Act once again is fighting for its life at the Supreme Court. So how could it affect Colorado?

That’s a question that’s best discussed over a beer.

We did just that Thursday afternoon at the Colorado Health Institute’s inaugural “Brews and Views: Health Policy Discussions With a Colorado Flavor.”

CHI put together an expert panel – CU law professor Melissa Hart, health care attorney Gerry Niederman and insurance benefits executive Leo Tokar. We got together at the Denver Beer Company with around 50 people interested in the King vs. Burwell case, which the Supreme Court heard Wednesday morning.

The case addresses the subsidies that low- to moderate-income people receive to buy insurance in 34 states that, unlike Colorado, do not have their own insurance marketplace. If the plaintiffs win, up to 9 million people could lose their subsidies. Experts predict that could lead to dire consequences for the insurance markets in those states.

At first glance, Colorado seems protected because of its state-chartered marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. But no state is an island (well, OK, except for Hawaii), and national developments could spill over here.

Our panelists zeroed in on questions Justice Anthony Kennedy posed at Wednesday’s oral arguments on whether the plaintiffs’ reading of the Affordable Care Act would make it so coercive to states that it would be unconstitutional. Although many defenders of the ACA have seen Kennedy’s questions as a sign that he will vote to uphold the law, Hart cautioned that he could just as easily rule for the plaintiffs and declare crucial parts of the ACA unconstitutional. And that ruling would, in turn, invite new lawsuits that could target the law in states like Colorado.

Thursday’s event featured perhaps the most in-depth exploration of the Chevron legal doctrine (the principle that courts should defer to government agencies’ interpretation of an ambiguous law) ever held inside a brewery.

If you missed Thursday’s event, don’t worry: We will have much more analysis of our panel discussion next week. We also will look for more opportunities to continue our public discussions of health policy at another Brews and Views event.