In a momentous victory, the US Supreme Court today upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” and protected access to health insurance for millions of families and individuals.
In its 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled in King v. Burwell that federal financial assistance made available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to purchase health insurance should be available to all eligible individuals, regardless of the state in which they live.
“At last, conservative efforts to kill Obamacare in the courts have decisively failed,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “It is shameful that Republican leaders are already announcing that they will continue to fight to kill Obamacare and take away health care from millions of low-income people. I am confident that this will be a major presidential issue, and that a majority of voters will demand that conservative politicians stop playing games with people’s health and lives.”
Under the ACA, the federal government provides financial help, in the form of tax credits, to middle- and low-income individuals to purchase health insurance through Health Insurance Marketplaces. Some states created their own marketplaces, but 34 states controlled by Republican governors refused to set up state marketplaces and therefore had to rely on use federally-facilitated marketplaces to allow individuals to buy health insurance. The issue in this case centered on whether these tax credits could be made available to families and individuals in those 34 states.
Failing to provide tax credits in those 34 states would likely have had devastating effects for around 9 million people – including over 3.5 million women, approximately one-third of whom are women of color – who may have no longer been able to afford insurance coverage. These millions would have lost critically needed health insurance, including access to preventive care that contained essential reproductive health benefits.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts explained that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Without tax credits, a key reform of the ACA would have unraveled, leading to a “death spiral” where the cost of insurance rise, the number of people insured would plummet, and insurers would flee the market.
With its decision, the Court refused to accept an argument that would essentially overturn the ACA and disrupt the necessary health care reforms initiated and implemented by the Obama Administration.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 3/5/15