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SCOTUS won’t hear case on ACA Medicare board

April 2, 2015

The case, Coons v. Lew, contested the constitutionality of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, among other complaints against Obamacare. The IPAB is designed to limit spending growth in Medicare, but the challengers say that it will result in limiting care for seniors.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to take the case was expected. Lower courts had ruled for the government, making the suit an unlikely candidate for the justices’ review. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the case was not ripe for review because the panel has not yet made any decisions.

The Goldwater Institute, the Arizona legal group that brought the case, promised to bring it back when the board begins to take action. The panel isn’t designed to make decisions until Medicare spending increases to certain amounts, which isn’t expected to happen for several years.

“This case is not dead; we’re simply in a holding pattern,” said Christina Sandefur, a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute. “We will bring this challenge again once the Independent Payment Advisory Board takes action.”

The challengers say that the unique nature of the 15-member IPAB gives it unprecedented legal power. Its decisions cannot be overridden by Congress without a super-majority and cannot be challenged in court. The challengers — an Arizona patient and doctor — say that centralized power makes the IPAB illegal.

The IPAB is a controversial piece of the Affordable Care Act, even among the law’s Democratic supporters. Written by Senate Democrats, the provision was unpopular with House Democrats, who questioned handing over so much legal authority to an unelected board.

A group of 25 Republican lawmakers filed an amicus brief to the high court in support of the challengers’ petition.

Although the Supreme Court turned down the IPAB case, it will issue a highly anticipated decision in another Obamacare case. A ruling in King v. Burwell, which challenges the health care law’s tax subsidies, is expected before the court ends its term in June.



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