The United States Supreme Court upheld a major provision of the Affordable Care Act, allowing the federal government to continue offering health care subsidies to low-income Americans who can’t afford insurance otherwise. This is a major victory for the Obama Administration and the second time the Supreme Court has prevented Obamacare from falling through the cracks.
The 6-3 decision was led by Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justice Anthony Kennedy and the court’s four liberal justices. In writing his opinion on King v. Burwell, Justice Roberts stated that the Affordable Care Act was built to help the country and is in no way undermining the nation’s markets.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former and avoids the latter.”
Challengers were concerned with the writing of the ACA law, which states that subsidies are only available to individuals who purchase insurance on an exchange established by the state, not from markets established by the federal government. This would mean that states which did not set up their own markets would be exempt from offering subsidies to their low income residents. However, Roberts states that while the literal interpretation is state-based only, that conflicts with Congress’s purpose in creating the Affordable Care Act and that subsidies should be offered to anyone under the system’s exchange. Had the court voted against the subsidy measure, more than six million Americans could have lost their subsidies and therefore lost the coverage they are now required to buy.
Justice Antonin Scalia led the dissenting opinion – along with Justices Thomas and Alito – stating that the text of the law was clear when it gave subsidies to state-sponsored exchanges only, and it was wrong of the High Court to “rewrite the law” and make tax credits readily available.
“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he wrote.