King v. Burwell

U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-144


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King v. Burwell [formerly known as King v. Sebelius] challenged an IRS regulation imposed under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, that allows subsidies on both state and federally-established health insurance exchanges. In the plaintiffs' opinion, the IRS violated the plain language of the law enacted by Congress, which gave states the choice to either set up such exchanges themselves or stay out of the program.

The case was filed on behalf of four Virginia residents on Sept. 16, 2013. The plaintiffs had a right to bring this case because the IRS regulation subjects them to Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires people to enroll in comprehensive healthcare coverage or pay a tax penalty.

On July 22, 2014, hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in a similar case – Halbig v. Burwell – the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the rule in the King case. The following week, CEI filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and on November 7, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the King case. The oral argument in King v. Burwell took place on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. 

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down a disappointing ruling in King v. Burwell. In a 6-3 decision, the court affirmed the Fourth Circuit's decision, but on different grounds, and ruled against CEI and the plaintiffs. CEI’s General Counsel Sam Kazman said the following about the decision:

“Today’s ruling is a tragedy for the rule of law in our country. The Court has allowed the IRS to rewrite a law enacted by Congress in a ruling that undercuts the Constitution’s separation of powers. For this reason, it is all the more important that Congress exercise even more vigilance in keeping the Executive Branch and its agencies in check. The rule of law is the foundation of our democracy, and defending it is something that Congress must do even as it deals with the problems created by Obamacare.”

Read the Supreme Court's full opinion here

Other Resources:
>> King v. Burwell Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
>> 3 Things You Should Know About King v. Burwell

There are four plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, David King, Brenda Levy, Rose Luck, and Douglas Hurst. All of the King plaintiffs are Virginia residents, and are harmed by the Obamacare IRS regulation, because the illegal subsidies subject them to Obamacare’s individual mandate. The end result is the individual mandate forces them to enroll in certain types of health insurance, which they do not want, or they must pay a penalty.

Douglas and Pam Hurst delivered a statement after the Supreme Court oral argument on March 4, 2015:

Doug Hurst lives a quiet life with his wife Pam in Virginia Beach, Va.  After caring for their daughter, who required medical attention for years before her untimely death, and after their own experience running a small business, the Hursts believe that freedom to choose is vital to finding the best healthcare plan for one’s family and one’s employees. The Hursts hope the King case will pave the way for more healthcare alternatives rather than the government-mandated plans that are being imposed on them and others by the IRS.

 “My name is Pam Hurst and my husband Doug and I are here today on behalf of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell. Decisions made here in Washington directly affect middle-class families like ours, and we believe it’s time for those who have been hurt by Washington to take a stand—that’s why Doug joined the case. We never imagined we would end up at the Supreme Court, but that just shows how important this case is, not just for us, but for so many others around the country who are hurt by Obamacare.

“There are millions of Americans who have lost their plans or their doctors.  Or who, like Doug and I, are forced by the Internal Revenue Service to either buy insurance we don’t want or face a tax penalty. We want Americans to have options. We believe there is a better way to take care of the people who need help. But there is no reason to force millions of us to pay tax penalties if we don’t join a government program.

“We elect our state and national leaders to write laws; we don't elect the IRS. We believe preventing the IRS from rewriting our healthcare laws is the right thing to do for our family and our country. That is why we are here today. What the Internal Revenue Service has done isn’t fair, isn’t right, and it isn't legal. We look forward to the Supreme Court’s decision and hope the court rules to protect our voice, our choice, and the laws that govern our nation. Thank you.”

News Releases:
June 25, 2015 – Rule of Law Dealt a Blow by the Supreme Court
June 09, 2015 – President Obama's Rose-Colored Glasses Regarding Healthcare
June 08, 2015
– President Obama Posits Himself as All Three Branches in One
March 04, 2015 – Oral Argument at Supreme Court Challenges Illegal IRS Move to Rewrite the Affordable Care Act
February 18, 2015 – Plaintiffs File Reply Brief in Supreme Court Obamacare Subsidies Case
January 22, 2015 – CEI Responds to Government's Brief in SCOTUS Obamacare Subsidies Case

December 31, 2014 – Obamacare Lawsuit Gains Support of Lawmakers, Experts in Supreme Court Amicus Briefs
December 22, 2014 – Opening Brief in SCOTUS Obamacare Exchange Subsidies Case Filed Today
November 07, 2014 – SCOTUS Announces Review of CEI's Healthcare Case: King v. Burwell

Press Highlights: 
June 25, 2015 – CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman spoke to media on a conference call following the King v. Burwell Supreme Court ruling
June 18, 2015 – Finding Another Way Than Obamacare by Tom Haynes, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
March 29, 2015 – The Man Who Brought Obamacare Back to the Supreme Court, by Nick Gillespie, Reason.

March 1, 2015 – Obamacare Rule Harms Millions by Sam Kazman, USA Today
February 23, 2015 – Why We Are Taking Obamacare to Court by Lawson Bader, Human Events
January 09, 2015 – Obamacare has been a Boon for the Insurance Industry by Tom Haynes, Forbes
December 12, 2014 – Why Affordability is not Obamacare's Primary Goal, by Tom Haynes, RealClear Policy
November 07, 2014 – Supreme Court to Hear New Obamacare Challenge by Michael Doyle, McClatchy 
October 14, 2014 – Obamacare and Affordability — Not as Connected as you Think by Tom Haynes, CNBC
July 22, 2014 – A Victory for the Rule of Law by Sam Kazman, USA Today


Related Research:
Scot Vorse – How HHS Flip-Flopped on Federal Exchange Subsidies
Scot Vorse – No Spoof: States Still Await Answers about Obamacare Exchanges

June 25, 2015
 Supreme Court decision. View it here

February 18, 2015
Petitioner's Reply Brief  to the Government's Brief Filed. View it here

January 21, 2015
Government Brief on the Merits Filed. View it here.

December 30, 2014
Amicus Briefs Filed:
Amicus brief of the Galen Institute
Amicus brief of the Mountain States Legal Foundation
Amicus brief of the Cato Institute
Amicus brief of Administrative and Constitutional Law Professors
-Amicus brief of Virginia State Delegates, et al.
-Amicus brief of Senator Cornyn, et al. 
-Amicus brief of Pacific Research Institute, et al. 
-Amicus brief of Oklahoma, Alabama, et al. 
-Amicus brief of Missouri Liberty Project, et al. 
-Amicus brief of Landmark Legal Foundation
-Amicus brief of Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon
-Amicus brief of Jeremy Rabkin
-Amicus brief of Indiana
-Amicus brief of Consumers' Research
-Amicus brief of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom
-Amicus brief of American Civil Rights Union and Heartland Institute
-Amicus brief of America Center for Law and Justice
-Amicus brief of Washington Legal Foundation
-Amicus brief of Judicial Watch
-Amicus brief of Joseph Evanns
-Amicus brief of Texas Black Americans for Life

December 22, 2014
Petitioner's Opening Brief on the Merits Filed. View it here.
Joint Appendix Filed. View it here.

November 07, 2014
Cert Petition Granted. View it here.