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 USresidents 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 Court’s 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 Ryan’s Wisconsin district alone, some 19,000 people stand to lose subsidies,” the Plum’s Greg Sargent explained earlier this week. “In John Boehner’s 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.