US Supreme Court up­holds health care sub­si­dies, ma­jor Obama vic­tory


The Supreme Court on Thurs­day up­held the na­tion­wide tax sub­si­dies un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care over­haul, in a rul­ing that pre­serves health in­sur­ance for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

The jus­tices said in a 6-3 rul­ing that the sub­si­dies that 8.7 mil­lion peo­ple cur­rently re­ceive to make in­sur­ance af­ford­able do not de­pend on where they live, un­der the 2010 health care law.

The out­come is the sec­ond ma­jor vic­tory for Obama in po­lit­i­cally charged Supreme Court tests of his most sig­nif­i­cant do­mes­tic achieve­ment. It came the same day the court gave the ad­min­is­tra­tion an un­ex­pected vic­tory by pre­serv­ing a key tool the ad­min­is­tra­tion uses to fight hous­ing bias.

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts again voted with his lib­eral col­leagues in sup­port of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to up­hold the law in 2012. Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, a dis­senter in 2012, was part of the ma­jor­ity on


‘To im­prove ... not to de­stroy’

“Congress passed the Af­ford­able Care Act to im­prove health in­sur­ance mar­kets, not to de­stroy them,” Roberts wrote in the ma­jor­ity opin­ion.

In a dis­sent he sum­ma­rized from the bench, Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia said, “We should start call­ing this law SCOTUS­care.” Us­ing the acro­nym for the Supreme Court, Scalia said his col­leagues have twice stepped in to save the law from what Scalia con­sid­ered wor­thy chal­lenges.

Jus­tices Sa­muel Al­ito and Clarence Thomas joined the dis­sent, as they did in 2012.

Na­tion­ally, 10.2 mil­lion peo­ple have signed up for health in­sur­ance un­der the Obama health over­haul. That in­cludes the 8.7 mil­lion peo­ple who are re­ceiv­ing an av­er­age sub­sidy of $272 a month to help pay their in­sur­ance premi­ums.

Of those re­ceiv­ing sub­si­dies, 6.4 mil­lion peo­ple were at risk of los­ing that aid be­cause they live in states that did not set up their own health in­sur­ance ex­changes.

Es­tab­lished by the State

The chal­lenge de­vised by diehard op­po­nents of the law, of­ten de­rided by crit­ics as “Oba­macare,” re­lied on four words — es­tab­lished by the state — in the more than 900-page law. The law’s op­po­nents ar­gued that the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who now get help pay­ing for their in­sur­ance premi­ums are in­el­i­gi­ble for their fed­eral tax cred­its. That is be­cause roughly three dozen states opted against cre­at­ing their own health in­sur­ance mar­ket­places, or ex­changes, and in­stead rely on the fed­eral to help peo­ple find cov­er­age if they don’t get in­sur­ance through their jobs or the gov­ern­ment.

In the chal­lengers’ view, the phrase “es­tab­lished by the state” demon­strated that sub­si­dies were to be avail­able only avail­able to peo­ple in states that set up their own ex­changes. Those words can­not re­fer to ex­changes es­tab­lished by the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment, which over­sees healthcare.

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