WATCH: High drama at the Supreme Court as justices rule on the legality of tax subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. It’s that money that helps 7 million people afford health insurance and today the high court ruled those subsidies should be available no matter where you live. Jan Crawford reports.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court sent a clear message Thursday that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is here to stay, rejecting a major challenge that would have imperiled the landmark law and health insurance for millions of Americans.
The president’s signature domestic reform, known as Obamacare is, as the president himself put it, “reality.”
The law, which was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, prevents insurance companies from denying coverage because of “pre-existing” health conditions. It requires almost everyone in the U.S. to be insured and provides financial help to consumers who otherwise would not be able to afford it. The United States is the only major world economy that does not have a comprehensive state health care system.
The 6-3 ruling, which upheld financial aid to millions of low- and middle-income Americans to help cover insurance costs regardless of local regulations in their states, was the second major victory in three years for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of the law.
Obama greeted news of the health care decision by declaring the law is no longer about politics but the benefits millions of people are receiving. “This is no longer about a law,” he said at the White House. “This is health care in America.”
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Declining to concede, top Republican congressman John Boehner said members of his party, who have voted more than 50 times to undo the law, will “continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centred solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”
Several Republican presidential candidates said they would continue the fight, ensuring it will be an issue in the campaign.
While the court’s ruling was an important victory for Obama and Democrats, it could also be useful for Republicans as the 2016 presidential and congressional elections heat up. It takes them off the hook, to a degree, from needing to draw up an alternative to Obamacare. Also, it leaves them with the issue to hammer home with their base of support where the law is unpopular.
Other legal challenges to the law are working their way through the courts, but they appear to pose lesser threats.
READ MORE: Obamacare hit by ruling, but subsidies to continue
Chief Justice John Roberts voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
WATCH: White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was “pleased” when he heard the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a key portion of the president’s health care law.
Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the law. That includes 8.7 million who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help cover their health insurance costs. Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not have the appropriate mechanisms for it.
The health insurance industry breathed a sigh of relief, and a national organization representing state regulators from both political parties said the court’s decision will mean stable markets for consumers.
The law’s opponents argued that the vast majority of people who now get help paying for health insurance coverage 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 a federal platform to help people find coverage if they don’t have it through their jobs.
The administration, congressional Democrats and 22 states responded that it would make no sense to interpret the law that way. The idea was to decrease the number of uninsured and providing financial help to those who cannot afford to pay. The point of the last piece, the subsidies, is to keep enough people in the pool of insured to avoid triggering a disastrous decline in enrolment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and then payment increases.