Photo (cc) by Mark Fischer
Federal subsidies designed to help low-income Americans afford health insurance will remain in place despite a legal challenge.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of the tax credits made available nationwide through the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare.
The 906-page federal law was challenged by plaintiffs who argued that health care reform legislation does not give the federal government the right to subsidize insurance in states that opted not to establish state-based health insurance exchanges.
Such states instead chose to participate in the federal government’s exchange. About three dozen states opted not to create health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who delivered the Supreme Court’s decision, wrote:
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.
The Associated Press reports that 8.7 million people out of the 10.2 million people who have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are receiving subsidies.
Most of them — 6.4 million — were at risk of losing their subsidies because they live in states without their own exchanges.
The court’s decision today means they can continue receiving subsidies, but other repercussions of the decision remain to be seen.
The New York Times points out, for example, that with federal subsidies extended to all, more states might opt to discontinue their own exchanges.
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