Obamacare subsidies upheld

A piece from the Washington Post reports that Obamacare, the Affordable Health Care Act, has been upheld, “The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act and agreed with the Obama administration that government subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of Americans should be available to all. By a 6-3 vote, a divided court affirmed an Internal Revenue Service ruling that subsidies should be available not only in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges, but also in states where consumers rely on the federal government exchange”.

The report notes “The court was interpreting a passage in the law that said the tax credits are authorized for those who buy health insurance on marketplaces that are “established by the state.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said while the law’s wording was problematic, Congress’s intent was clear. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter,” Roberts wrote”.

It adds that the decision was “bipartisan”, “Roberts was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Opposing the decision were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Scalia said Roberts, who also wrote the decision in 2012 that saved the Affordable Care Act from constitutional challenge, has performed “somersaults of statutory interpretation” to save the act: “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.” The two cases, Scalia said, “will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” There was no immediate reaction from the White House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the administration should not “crow” about its latest legal victory”.

The article mentions “There are about 10.2 million people who had signed up and paid their premiums as of March, and 6.4 million were receiving subsidies in the 34 states that had not set up their own health insurance marketplaces. Those consumers stood to lose their subsidies, worth about $1.7 billion a month, if the justices had agreed with the challenge. Customers in the 16 states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia that set up their own insurance exchanges were not at risk. The challenge was brought by the same conservative legal strategists who fell one vote short of convincing the court that the law was unconstitutional in 2012. This was a challenge about how the law is implemented”.

It ends noting, “The subsidies are scaled to income, and average $272 per month. Many who receive subsidies through the federal marketplace are white and live in the South, according to a recent Urban Institute analysis. Half have full-time jobs. Many live in states such as Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas — led by Republican officials who oppose the health-care law and have balked at setting up their own exchanges. Another big group lives in the Midwest, in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. President Obama said recently that he did not think the court should have even accepted the case. Technically, there was no split among the lower courts that had considered the issue”.



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