WASHINGTONThe federal government may continue to provide subsidies to health insurance purchasers in states that did not set up healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 25 in a 6-3 decision.
At issue in the King v. Burwell case was whether the phrase established by the state in the ACA meant that only people who bought health insurance from states that had established healthcare exchanges under the ACA should receive subsidies.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy joined liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer in ruling that the law's clear intent is to provide subsidies for all lower-income Americans seeking health insurance.
Justice Roberts wrote that 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.
In opposition to the decision were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Justice Kennedy's position in the majority was particularly significant, according to a Washington Post story, because earlier he had been among the four justices who would have found the entire law unconstitutional.
In rebutting the decision, the Post reported that Justice Scalia said Justice Robertswho also wrote the decision in 2012 that saved the ACA from that challengehas performed somersaults of statutory interpretation to preserve the act, adding: We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.
The two cases, Justice Scalia said, will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites, the Post reported.
Reaction to the Supreme Court ruling was swift.
This should be the final nail in the coffin of repeal by legislative and judicial means from opponents of the ACA, said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institute.
It is past time to move on and stop begrudging the healthcare received by millions of its fellow Americans.
However, the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), which advocates for the employee benefit and compensation interests of the nation's largest employers, said the end of the Supreme Court case is the perfect time to begin congressional action to reform the ACA.
ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which governs how employers provide employee benefits.
ERIC's members were providing health coverage to their employees long before passage of the ACA, according to ERIC President and CEO Annette Guarisco Fildes.
With the legal case settled, Congress should use this opportunity to repeal the burdensome and unnecessary taxes, mandates and reporting requirements imposed by the ACA, she said.
Specifically, we want Congress to repeal the 40-percent healthcare excise tax, the employer mandate and all the related reporting requirements, Ms. Fildes said.
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