Justice Antonin Scalia has coined a new nickname for the Affordable Care Act after the Supreme Court ruled once again to save the law: SCOTUScare.
“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, a play on the law’s other nickname, ObamaCare.
Scalia delivered his blistering dissent as part of the 6-3 decision reached in King v. Burwell, which upholds the federal government’s ability to provide subsidies for 6.4 million people in states that chose not to set up healthcare exchanges.
The legal challenge, bolstered by conservative lawmakers and think tanks, argued that expanding those subsidies to federally-run exchanges was an overly expansive reading of the law, relying on a phrase that called for subsidies only in markets “established by the state.”
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts swatted that argument down and said that it is “implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in that matter.”
Scalia disagreed strongly, arguing that the language clearly prohibited the subsidies. He called the majority’s argument “interpretive jiggery-pokery” that establishes a dangerous precedent.
“Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State,’” he wrote.
"You would think the answer be obvious — so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. … The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a state."
In delivering his opinion from the bench on Thursday, Scalia noted that the phrase “established by the state" appears in seven provisions of the healthcare law related to tax credits.
"What are the odds that the same slip of the pen occurred in seven separate places?" he asked. "If there were a mistake here, context suggests that it was a substantive mistake in designing part of the law, not a technical mistake in transcribing it."
He said it's Congress's responsibility to make laws and the court's responsibility to interpret them.
"It is up to our country's elected lawmakers, not to its unelected judges, to repair statutes that have unintended consequences or that do not work out in practice."
Scalia ended his dissent with a tacit rebuke, as first noted by Time. Justices typically sign a dissent by including the term “respectfully” — even Scalia’s 2012 scathing ObamaCare dissent ends by stating, “We respectfully dissent.”
But in a move perhaps indicative of his feelings on the majority opinion, he simply ends his opinion in King v. Burwell with, “I dissent.”
— This story was updated at 11:33 a.m.