Health Law Clears Major Hurdle As Supreme Court Upholds Subsidies

The Supreme Court upheld a major element of President Obama’s health care law Thursday, ruling that the government should continue offer insurance subsidies nationwide.

The 6-3 decision preserves the Affordable Care Act, a law that has expanded insurance coverage across the U.S.

In the King v. Burwell case, the court considered a key portion of the law: whether low- and middle-income people living in states that did not offer insurance marketplaces could still receive subsidies to help them pay for health care.

A portion of the law appears to say that subsidies are available only to people buying insurance on “an exchange established by the state,” but the act taken as a whole affirms that the subsidies were designed to be offered broadly, to “any applicable taxpayer,” the court decided.

If the court had ruled the other way, millions of people receiving subsidies in states without exchanges could have been placed in insurance limbo and the stability of the entire law could have been in jeopardy.

“Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.

Californians would not have been immediately affected because the state operates its own marketplace.

Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access California, wrote in a blog post Thursday that he was relieved by the ruling.

“Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act once again, we hope we can stop debating a five-year old law and discuss additional ways to reduce health costs and provide more health and financial security for American families,” he said.

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