This year, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken on a litany of big cases with far-reaching implications especially for Floridians. Here are some things you need to know about how several upcoming decisions will affect the Sunshine State.
1. Florida will be most affected by the decision in King v. Burwell. The state leads the nation in Obamacare enrollment and the number of people receiving subsidies to pay for that health care coverage. So if the Supreme Court rules that federal subsidies can’t be used to purchase health insurance through Healthcare.gov, 1.3 million Floridians may lose their health coverage.
- The question in King v. Burwell is whether the line in the Affordable Care Act that says the subsidies are meant to be used by a person enrolled in "... an Exchange established by the State...” precludes the federal government from offering its exchange when the state does not.
2. Currently, there is no backup plan for those 1.3 million Floridians if the court rules they can’t use subsidies on the federal exchange.
- Florida and 33 other states chose not to set up their own insurance exchanges when the Affordable Care Act began enrollment in 2013, which meant Floridians who received subsidies had to turn to the federal exchanges for their health plans. Of the roughly 1.4 million people who have enrolled using Healthcare.gov, almost 94-percent are subsidized.
3. If the court rules against the use of federal subsidies on Healthcare.gov, it’s hard to know when it will take effect. The court could build in a transitional period for Congress to update the law, but as NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg says, “there isn’t any consensus about how to fix it and most Republicans hate Obamacare enough that it’s not at all clear to me that there would be an acceptable fix.”
- Alternatively, states could be given some time to establish their own in compliance with the law, but as seen in the rollout of Healthcare.gov, that’s not an easy feat.
4. Even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Obergefell v. Hodges that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage in the United States, that does not mean same-sex marriages would have to stop in Florida. Because the state is not a party to the case, the lower court decisions that opened the door for same-sex couples to marry in Florida would still stand. At that point Pam Bondi, who has challenged rulings allowing same-sex marriage, could petition the Supreme Court to take up a Florida case on the issue, which the high court could refuse to hear, which means, again, lower court rulings would stand.
5. Depending on the court's decision, same-sex marriages performed in Florida may continue not to be recognized in states like Georgia, Texas and North Dakota, where same-sex marriage is currently prohibited. That could create a lot of problems when it comes to property ownership or inheritance rights for couples.
- The second question in the gay-marriage case Obergefell vs. Hodges is if there is not a universal right to same-sex marriage in the U.S., do states where it is not allowed have to recognize lawful marriages in states where it is legal? They court will only have to answer this question if it says no to the question about a universal right to same-sex marriage.
6. Florida may have to revamp its death-penalty procedure if the court rules in Glossip v. Gross that Midazolam cannot be used as part of a lethal injection procedure. The case was born out of Oklahoma, where the botched execution of Clayton Lockett led several inmates to take legal action challenging the procedure used in the state -- a procedure that was pioneered by Florida in 2013. One of those inmates was ultimately executed using the procedure he tried to challenge. Florida has delayed several executions until the Supreme Court releases its decision since the procedure in question is the same as that used in the Sunshine State.