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Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare subsidies
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld ObamaCare subsidies nationwide, in the second major court victory for President Obama on his signature health care law.
In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that subsidies are valid even in states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges.
A ruling against the administration would have threatened subsidies worth millions in nearly three-dozen states and imperiled the program itself. For months, though, the administration said it had no back-up plans, confident the Supreme Court would rule in its favor.
The Supreme Court previously upheld the law's individual mandate in 2012, in a 5-4 decision. This time, the justices said 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.
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 Thursday.
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "The Act gives each State the opportunity to establish its own Exchange, but provides that the Federal Government will establish the Exchange if the State does not."
Conservative-leaning justices, though, issued a scathing dissent to the decision, referencing the several times the high court has had to rule on the health law.
"We should just start calling this law SCOTUScare," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The challenge devised by opponents of the law relied on four words -- established by the state -- in the more than 900-page law. The passage technically said subsidies were for those exchanges established by the state.
The law's opponents argued that the vast majority of people who now get help paying for their insurance premiums are, therefore, 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 Healthcare.gov 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 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.gov, the opponents argued.
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.
The case is King v. Burwell, 14-114.
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