In a 6-3 ruling today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a crucial provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows the federal government to provide tax subsidies for people who would otherwise find insurance unaffordable.
The court said that despite confusing language in the law, federal subsidies should be available even in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid and created their own health insurance exchanges.
Colorado did expand Medicaid and create a state exchange.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion saying that while “The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting … 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.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent, agreeing with the conservative case brought against the law. He wrote:
“The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says ‘Exchange established by the State’ it means ‘Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government.’ That is of course quite absurd, and the Court’s 21 pages of explanation make it no less so.”
Had the majority of the court ruled with Scalia, some 6 million Americans would have been left without access to federal-health-insurance subsidies.
“We’re relieved that the Supreme Court did not allow four words to destabilize the nation’s entire health insurance market, most likely causing a spike in insurance rates,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, in a release.
You can read the full decision here.
Update: Not everyone is thrilled with the King v. Burwell decision.
Colorado congressman Mike Coffman (R) responded by calling again for a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is an outrage and an endorsement of the failures and broken promises of Obamacare,” added Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of the conservative political organization Advancing Colorado. His release also slammed Colorado’s local health insurance exchange.
“Our state exchange, while a positive alternative to the federal exchange, has basically served as a state-of-the-art magnifying glass to see how terrible government is at managing health care.”
Photo by Thomas Hawk.