In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court voted today to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s (commonly referred to as Obamacare) premium subsidies, staving off for the second time in three years attempts by opponents of the health care act to have it abolished.
According to ABC News, "The nation's highest court ruled that critics' reading of Obamacare might make sense in isolation, but not when viewed in a larger context and in light of the intention of the law."
Speaking from the White House shortly after the ruling was announced, President Barack Obama spoke highly of the ruling. "Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all," Obama said, according to CNN. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay."
CNN notes that about two-thirds of the way through conservative Chief Justice John Roberts' reading of the majority opinion, it was clear that he would be voting with the majority—and rescuing Obamacare once again. (Roberts also voted with the majority in 2012 to affirm the constitutionality of the ACA's requirement that Americans purchase health insurance or face a penalty.)
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, viewed by CNN. "If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."
The crux of the opposition's argument stemmed from wording in a single passage that allowed for "state-based" insurance exchanges. According to Vox.com, some 14 states, including Washington, D.C., established their own exchanges. The remaining states opted out and as such were set up with "federally facilitated" or "partnership" exchanges through Healthcare.gov, which included subsidies.
But, as Vox notes, "the part of the Affordable Care Act that authorizes the subsidies specifies that those subsidies are available to people who enrolled 'through an Exchange established by the State under 1311'—the section that sets up state-based exchanges." The income-based subsidies are crucial to making health care affordable. Had the Supreme Court ruled against Obamacare, some 6.4 million people would have been affected, "absent a state fix or federal action," according to CNN.
"Today's Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate is a tremendous victory for our nation," Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. "Every modern U.S. President has acknowledged the urgency of healthcare reform, but President Obama and Congressional Democrats successfully answered the call with the passage of this law."