Sun | May 28, 2017

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Subsidies

Published:Friday | June 26, 2015 | 6:00 AM
President Barack Obama (right), accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday in Washington, after the Supreme Court upheld the subsidies for customers in states that do not operate their own exchanges under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

WASHINGTON:

The Supreme Court yesterday rescued President Obama's health-care law for the second time in three years, rejecting a conservative challenge to the law's financial structure that could have proved fatal.

By a vote of six-three, the justices ruled that insurance subsidies created by the health law can be offered in both state and federal health-care exchanges, or marketplaces, putting the landmark 2010 statute on solid legal footing for the immediate future and handing the law's opponents a sound defeat.

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority.

"If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."

Roberts was joined by the court's four more liberal justices as well as Justice Anthony Kennedy, who, frequently, is in the middle on split decisions. The court's three more conservative justices dissented.

The case turned on a section of the health law that said the federal government could subsidise insurance for people who purchase it in a marketplace "established by the state." That language, Roberts wrote, "may not be as clear as it appears when read out of context".

Read in context, he said, the law makes clear that Congress wanted subsidies available everywhere, and the alternative "could well push a state's individual insurance market into a death spiral", a phrase frequently used by the law's proponents.

The high court's action virtually guarantees that Obama will leave office in January 2017 with his signature domestic policy achievement in place. Republicans in Congress, who have tried more than 60 times to repeal the law or wipe out its funding, may be forced to throw in the towel.

The ruling ensures that "we will continue to make progress in the years ahead, so that hopefully at some point in the not-too-distant future, everyone in America will have health insurance," said Ron Pollack, executive director of the consumer group Families USA.

The lawsuit was by far the most dangerous of several pending against what's come to be called Obamacare. It threatened the tax credits used by 6.4 million people in 34 states to make health-insurance premiums affordable.