The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Affordable Care Act does allow federal government to provide tax subsidies to low- and middle-income individuals to help them buy a health insurance plan.
The ruling came in a six-justice majority with Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas in dissent. The current ruling means that Obamacare will be in effect long after President Obama is out of office.
This Thursday’s decision marks the third time Obamacare survives the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr argued that presidential health care overhaul was passed to make health insurance markets better, rather than destroy them.
On the other hand, Justice Scalia deemed the ruling “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and said that the other six justices had to perform “interpretive somersaults” to reach the decision.
“We really should start calling this law Scotus-care,”
he added from the bench where he had been sitting from the start to express his dissent.
After hearing the news, President Obama said that his health care law was there to stay. On the other hand, GOP leaders said that the fight against it was not over. House Speaker John A. Boehner explained that the law was “fundamentally broken” since it leads to extra expenditures for families and small business owners. Mr. Boehner also said that his party would make whatever effort necessary to put people back in charge of their health care.
The trial at the Supreme Court was mainly about the interpretation of a single phrase. Some have argued that only people that bought their health insurance plan from an“exchange established by the state,” as the law put it, could benefit from federal subsidies.
Currently, only 18 states have their own health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, the rest (about two thirds) allowed the federal government to manage their exchanges. So, if the Supreme Court had ruled that Obamacare subsidies for those with lower income applied only to state-run exchanges, about six million people would have been deprived of access to health care for being too costly. Official statistics show that about 85 Obamacare enrollees are eligible for subsidies.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that plaintiffs in King V. Burwell case, which had contested the federal interpretation of that five-word phrase, did have some “strong” arguments and advocated for a “natural reading” of the law. But the interpretation must be done within a context by taking into account the entire structure of the law, he argued.