Supreme Court upholds major portion of Obamacare
President Obama and other Affordable Care Act supporters can breathe a sigh of relief: The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit that would have barred millions of Americans from receiving tax credits to help them pay for insurance.
In a 6 to 3 decision, the court ruled that the federal government can dole out subsidies to Obamacare consumers in all states, regardless of whether their state runs its own Obamacare marketplace (or exchange) or relies on the federal government's HealthCare.gov.
\"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,\" Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. \"The Act clearly contemplates that there will be qualified individuals on every Exchange.\"
Had the court sided with the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, more than 6 million Americans in 34 states that rely on the federal marketplace would have lost subsidies. Health care industry experts predicted the disruption in the insurance market could have caused premiums to skyrocket for the remaining customers, causing more and more people to drop their insurance in what's referred to as a \"death spiral.\"
The justices in the majority seemed keenly aware of the impact a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would have had.
\"The tax credits are among the Act's key reforms, involving billions of dollars in spending each year and affecting the price of health insurance for millions of people,\" Roberts wrote. \"Whether those credits are available on Federal Exchanges is thus a question of deep 'economic and political significance' that is central to this statutory scheme.\"
The case hinged on the court's reading of one line in the Affordable Care Act. Section 1311 of the law says the federal government will give subsidies to eligible consumers who buy insurance from an exchange \"established by the State.\" The plaintiffs argued that, consequently, consumers in federally-run marketplaces were ineligible for tax credits. However, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said it was never their intention to limit the tax credits to state-run marketplaces.
Roberts seemed ready to give those lawmakers a pass for this one poorly-drafted line in the law.
\"The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting,\" he wrote. \"Given that the text is ambiguous, we must turn to the broader structure of the Act to determine the meaning.\"
The Wisconsin Medical Society issued a statement on King v. Burwell decision.
Statement was from Jerry Halverson, MD, Wisconsin Medical Society President:
“Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in King v. Burwell, it's time to focus on the future.
“The challenge before all of us is to maintain the provisions within the Affordable Care Act that are working and improve those provisions that are not. Our collective goal always must be to have a health care delivery system that provides the highest quality, most cost-efficient care to all Americans.
“The Wisconsin Medical Society looks forward to working with federal and state policymakers, our health care colleagues and the public to achieve this crucial goal.”
Mayor Barrett, also, released a statement.
“Today's Supreme Court ruling reaffirms the nation's commitment to affordable health care coverage and improved health regardless of income. The City of Milwaukee and its partners will continue our efforts to make certain that all residents are informed about their health care insurance options.”
Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), released the following statement:
“Today's ruling is a victory for the more than 6 million people currently covered under the Affordable Care Act and a blow to Scott Walker. This is another example of just how wrong Governor Walker is on this issue. With 30 governors of both parties having accepted the funds for their constituents, Walker's blatant politically driven refusal to accept the money is harmful to Wisconsin. It's unbelievable to me that in 2015, there are still people out there who will do everything they can to stand in the way of someone else having health care coverage. Health care impacts all of us, even if it's not ours. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. You can't strengthen our neighborhoods and communities if people don't have access to healthy food, health care, a quality education and a job. To stand in the way of someone else having quality affordable health care, while you yourself have some of the best health care in the state, should be a crime.”