The Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in a technical case that could have major implications for the U.S. government. American Hospital Association v. Becerra involves Medicare drug reimbursement programs at hospitals. It offers the Court the opportunity to review its landmark 1984 decision in Chevron c. Natural Resources Defense Council, a major step in the development of the administrative state. Chevron ushered in a perilous era of judicial deference to agency interpretations deemed “ambiguous”, often by judges who believe no text is clear.
Chevron, As AHA, involved a technical challenge to an agency action. President Reagan’s Environmental Protection Agency had ruled that the term “stationary source” in the Clean Air Act referred to an entire factory rather than its individual chimneys. The rule, which had overturned an earlier decision by the Carter administration, responded to industry’s desire to modify individual plant components without triggering costly and time-consuming permit requirements for “new or altered” facilities under the rule. of the law.