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Megan McArdle

Obamacare's Intent? Just Read the Law

Courts shouldn't ask bills' authors what they meant to write.
Maybe should have used pencil.

Maybe should have used pencil.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By the end of next month, the Supreme Court will have released its decision in King v. Burwell, the case that will determine whether subsidies will be available for insurance purchased through a federally operated exchange. The plaintiffs say this is impermissible, because the law provides for subsidies only for policies purchased on exchanges "established by the state", probably inserted in the law as an inducement to states to set up exchanges. The defenders of the status quo argue that this is insane, because they'd never structure the system so as to risk having needy people lose subsidies, and because no one who actually worked on the law remembers having any such intention.

Robert Pear airs both of the defender's points for the New York Times, interviewing political folks who were there during the negotiations, and staffers who helped draft the legislative language. Naturally, given my continuing opposition to Obamacare, a number of Obamacare supporters have asked me what I thought of this, with veiled hints that I should find this totally devastating to the arguments in the King case. My actual reaction is as follows: