Remember all those tax credits you qualified for under the Affordable Care Act, which essentially made health insurance...affordable? You may owe them back next tax season if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare for the second time this year.
Coincidentally on the same day, in two separate trials, in the country's second highest courts, two sets of federal judges made opposite rulings over (what else?) Obamacare. But only one judge ruled with pizza analogies.
In both cases, a single sentence in the 955-page Affordable Care Act was scrutinized. It goes like this: Tax credits are for qualifying people who "enrolled through an Exchange established by the State under 1311". Seems straight forward. So what's the need for pizza?
Before we get to that, it helps to know the terminology. An exchange is an organization that provides health insurance. Section 1311 says that states have a deadline to establish an Exchange.
Section 1321, which will be important coming up, says if a state doesn't have a "required Exchange operational" by a deadline, then the federal government (the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) would establish "such Exchange".
By the deadline, only 16 states and the District of Colombia established Exchanges: California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The remaining states relied on the federal Exchange, healthcare.gov.
If the law is read literally, it would mean only residents in the aforementioned states with an "Exchange established by the State" would receive tax credits. In this case, it would be stupid for any state not to establish an Exchange. Clearly this wasn't the law's intent and wasn't how lawmakers communicated how tax credits would work.
There are clear instructions to provide tax credits to states that establish an Exchange under 1311. But since there's no parallel in Section 1321 to clarify who gets tax credits for "such Exchanges", i.e. federal exchanges, opponents argue the latter are excluded from receiving tax credits.
Judge Gregory, who ruled in favor of Obamacare in the case, King v Burwell, used Pizza Hut and Domino's to compare state and federal exchanges. His point was to ignore Papa Johns, which hiked its prices to pay for Obamacare's large employer mandate and cut employee hours to limit who was eligible.
Judge Gregory hypothetically asked a friend for a two topping pizza from Pizza Hut, but noted that he didn't mind if it came from Domino's. When his imaginary friend returned with a Domino's pizza and the correct toppings, he wasn't held in contempt. He was held in high esteem.
The judge explained his orders were followed according to his instructions: get a pizza with ham and pepperoni from Pizza Hut or get a pizza from Domino's. He didn't have to specify what toppings he wanted on his pizza if it came from Domino's. Common sense told the delivery boy to get the same toppings.
Using common sense, the state exchanges and federal exchanges are interchangeable terms in the context of the law. They're both places to get health insurance with tax credits, only some states have "Pizza Hut" and others have "Dominos".
Just because in 1311, tax credits are mentioned for people who sign up on an Exchange established by the state but not mentioned in Section 1321 where it discusses federal Exchanges, doesn't mean Congress wants no tax credits for these people. Similarly, just because the judge didn't mention what toppings he wanted on a Domino's pizza doesn't mean he wants no pizza.
Congress' intent when passing this law was simple: to provide tax credits to those who qualified and enrolled through an Exchange.
In the other Obamacare case, Halbig v Burwell , the law was read without food analogies or common sense. The judges ruled tax credits were only valid in 16 states and Washington DC.
Neither ruling will jeopardize tax credits and the Department of Justice will take the case to SCOTUS as long as pizza is provided.
Reading the law literally is dangerous, especially if the Second Amendment means we all have the Right to Grizzly Appendages: the surgery of which is covered by Obamacare.