The Lawyer Who Helped Spark This Week’s Affordable Care Act Rulings
Months after the Affordable Care Act became law, employment benefits lawyer Thomas Christina paced in his Greenville, S.C., office with its oil portrait of a greenhouse. He was reading the statute to learn its impact on clients.
By his reading, the wording only allowed health insurance subsidies to be provided through state exchanges. It began to dawn on him that he'd stumbled on something big.
His 2010 discovery ultimately spurred a legal battle that on Tuesday resulted in two conflicting rulings from U.S. Appeals courts regarding the government's authority to provide consumers with subsidies on the federal insurance exchange. The continuing legal dispute now threatens the subsidies provided to more than four million Americans.
The lawsuits that triggered this week's opinions center on how to interpret language in the 2010 health law that allows subsidies when consumers buy insurance on an exchange "established by the state." Challengers say that precludes the federal exchange; supporters say that wasn't Congress' intent.
In December 2010, Mr. Christina presented his findings at the American Enterprise Institute. AEI's Mr. Miller was intrigued. He saw the seed of a potential legal challenge to the health law.
In June 2012, the Supreme Court handed opponents of the law a defeat by upholding the individual mandate. That day, Mr. Miller jumped on a conference call with Mr. Christina and others to discuss moving ahead with a lawsuit on the law's language.
He drew on Sam Kazman, general counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank. They coordinated the lawsuits and funded the effort. The institute reached out to Michael Carvin, a lawyer at Jones Day who brought the two cases the courts ruled on Tuesday. The first lawsuit raising the claim was filed in September 2012 and there are currently four cases in the courts.
Mr. Christina's seen a subdued response to this week's ruling given his role remains relatively unknown. Although Mr. Miller credits him with the lawsuits' origin, Mr. Christina prefers to say it was the work of many.