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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 26, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 26
SCOTUS OKs Obamacare...again
Section One
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SCOTUS OKs Obamacare...again

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a stunning victory for Pres. Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key portion of his signature Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a 6-3 decision handed down June 25.

Opponents of the healthcare reform law, known as 'Obamacare,' argued that the federal government is not entitled to subsidize health insurance for low-income Americans if the states in which they live decline to create a state insurance exchange.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the majority, ruling that the intent of Congress was to make it easier for Americans to get health insurance, and that the language of the law should be interpreted in that light.

'Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,' Roberts wrote in his opinion.

Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote an outraged dissent, claiming that the court was exceeding its authority.

'We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,' Scalia wrote. 'Today's interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of.'

Obamacare survived a previous Supreme Court challenge in 2012. At that time Roberts also wrote the majority opinion upholding the law, but he rejected the administration's legal arguments and concocted his own legal theory of the case, allowing him to uphold Obamacare but at the same time to limit the operation of the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause.

The commerce clause is troublesome for legal conservatives because it is used to justify federal regulation of private businesses, environmental protections and civil rights laws.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined the conservative minority in opposing Obamacare in 2012, joined the majority in upholding it this time. In 2012 Kennedy was concerned that the healthcare reform overstepped the lawful bounds of federalism and interfered with states' rights.

In oral arguments this year, Kennedy returned to the federalism question, but he turned it in favor of Obamacare. Striking down federal subsidies, he suggested, would force states to subsidize insurance or risk a complete meltdown of the U.S. healthcare system - and that, Kennedy said, might be unconstitutional.

If the law had been overturned, 6.4 million Americans would have been at risk of losing their healthcare insurance.

The ACA requires Americans to buy healthcare insurance, but it also sets up a subsidy program to help low-income individuals buy coverage. States are authorized to create insurance exchanges to match up subsidized buyers with the least expensive insurance programs.

Many states - especially those with Republican-controlled state governments - refused to set up state insurance exchanges, so the federal government also created a federal insurance exchange where subsidized buyers could get inexpensive polices.

Most Americans receiving subsidies now purchase healthcare insurance through the federal exchange. Had the Supreme Court ruled that illegal, low-income buyers would have been at risk of losing their insurance.

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