Obamacare Subsidies Survive Supreme Court Ruling

You could almost hear the hundreds of thousands of newly insured Americans cheer this morning when the Supreme Court announced that the federal government may continue to subsidize insurance plans for all people, regardless of whether they bought them on state health care exchanges or on the federal version. The ruling is a final victory for the Affordable Care Act, which has been overwhelmingly embraced by U.S. residents despite the barricades and lawsuits thrown at it by GOP politicians along the way.

The court ruled 6-3 on King v. Burwell, a lawsuit contending that the language approved by Congress when the ACA passed was meant to apply to all insurance plans bought on exchanges, including those purchased on the federal exchange when red states refused to facilitate their own locally. Republicans in Congress and their conservative legal allies claimed the federal subsidies were never intended for federal exchange plans and hoped to have them eliminated, knowing it could cause the entirety of Obamacare to crumble due to high premium costs.

Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court majority stated that the intention was always to make insurance more affordable for everyone, not just those in states with governors who weren’t dedicated to seeing the ACA fail.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, according to CNN.com.† “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the decision was panned by the conservative minority of the court. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the majority, with Scalia writing a scathing dissent. “Justice Antonin Scalia wrote an angry dissent, saying the Supreme Courtís pair of decisions over Obamacare will ‘surely be remembered through the years’ as evidence the court does ‘whatever [it] takes to uphold and assist its favorites,’” reports ABC News.

King v. Burwell was the last current legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, a fact that is likely to make hundreds of thousands of Americans who are receiving affordable, high quality health insurance breathe easier. That likely won’t stop Republicans in Congress from continuing their efforts to repeal it via legislation, although much of that effort has been for show. According to Scientific American, Congress has held over 60 votes to try to appeal Obamacare in the five years it has been in place, and with a presidential election around the bend there could be more of that coming.

Obamacare has been gaining in popularity among voters, too, and not just among Democrats, although many are still convinced there is something better that could be done to continue to reform our medical system. “Most Republicans (72 percent) continue to oppose the law, while most Democrats (70 percent) support it. Independents are split,” reports CBS News.† “Still, few Americans (just 9 percent) think the health care law is working well and should be kept as it is, and 31 percent want the law repealed entirely. Most – 55 percent – think that there are some good things in the law, though changes are needed to make it work better.”

That something better? Well, single payer healthcare wouldn’t be a bad idea, but that’s probably even more of a longshot.

Now that the decision is final, expect Republicans to rile up anti-government sentiment to try to propel them through the next big election. The irony is, of course, that had they gotten their victory in the court and Obamacare went down, it would be their own constituents who would have been the most likely to be affected.

“In Paul Ryanís Wisconsin district alone, some 19,000 people stand to lose subsidies,” the Plum’s Greg Sargent explained earlier this week. “In John Boehnerís Ohio district, that number is 9,000 people. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, five House Republicans represent districts each with over 20,000 who would lose subsidies. A number of GOP districts in all three states are each home to over 10,000 such people.”

The court may have decided against them, but in the long run, perhaps the GOP will be just as happy to keep everything in place as their newly insured residents are.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

They have to have the subsidies because a lot of people can't afford the insurance without them.

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thank you

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm3 years ago

Obama didn't want the ACA It was simply the best deal he could get under the present political climate. The insurance induct is one of the most power lobbying interests in the country. The only one with more political clout might be the Military industrial complex and Big Oil. They bought much of congress to make DAMED sure their monopoly was not disturbed......that their profits remained untouched. He made the best deal he was allowed to make. HE wanted single payer because he saw it as the salvation and equalizer for small business. Large business doesn't WANT small business competing with them so they lobby INTENSELY to regulate small business.

Single payer would have eliminated the advantage LARGE industries have in hiring the best people. INSURANCE and benefits.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

@Ron A G. "Stardust N., Jeanni B., from Flaorida, and Erik L. from Ohio, need to start living outside the box (T.V.) and start talking to real people rather than listening to their politicians."
"Then Erik L. where I agree with you that there are problems in both parties, then you can really get the correct information for you and maybe with open mind you couls see why Single Payer is the best idea. Prices would be negotiated without profit being the criteria. Prices come down or they don't get the business, to include prescription medicines and equipment."

Haha, actually I don't watch any TV, I don't even own a TV anymore as I got fed up with the BS from mainstream media so you have me wrong as well. Single Payer still has the same issue as our current system as it's still 3rd party payer. When neither you or your doctor care about the cost costs will rise. Normal market forces that would keep costs down are not at work. Your right about pricing in a Single Payer system prices would have to be fixed by the government since free market forces are absent. Single Payer requires force, forced pricing, eventually forced rationing of services. There are all kinds of side effects that this would cause.

Competition drives prices down and drives innovation all without force.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

@Regus S. "You are such a bloviating, f**king hypocrit. A real rightwing organ-grinder monkey, mindlessly dancing for your oligarchical masters, uncaring of how stupid you make yourself look in public."

You might want to look into some anger management. Maybe take up yoga.

Your opinion of me could not be any more off base. You obviously have not read any of my comments on this and many other topics on Care2.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

That's great. Obamacare just shifts costs to the taxpayer.

Meanwhile for the rest of us, the working class insurance is still going up at double digit rates. Ours went up 19% last year.

So we still need REAL healthcare reform that actually lowers cost.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago


Dt Nc
Dt Nc3 years ago

Another good decision by the Supreme Court. Like it or not, ACA is probable here to stay so best to focus on making it better than trying to destroy it.