This morning, the Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in King v. Burwell and in a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the subsidies available to consumers in the federally facilitated marketplaces (FFMs) were allowable under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts found that the ACA makes it clear that state exchanges and federal exchanges are equivalent and that Congress intended them to be treated as such. So when the statute talks about an exchange “established by the State” the whole statute must be considered as “the meaning of that phrase may not be as clear as it appears when read out of context.” Chief Justice Roberts goes on to end his opinion by saying that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” And the Supreme Court “must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
So what does this mean? It means that everything thing stays the same and the status quo remains. Those who were receiving subsidies in the FFMs are now free from the fear that their subsidies would be lost and their insurance highly unaffordable. It means that millions of Americans will continue to be covered through the FFMs. It means that all the fretting that those of us who support the law were feeling was “much ado about nothing.”*
This ends yet another attempt to undermine the ACA through the courts. If the plaintiffs had been successful, their lawsuit would have meant that over 6 million people currently enrolled in coverage through the ACA would have lost their tax subsidies. This would’ve most likely meant that the consumers would not have been able to continue with coverage as the premiums would have been unaffordable without the tax credits. While this decision concludes an anxious moment for supporters of the law, there are still attempts being made legislatively to undermine, gut or outright repeal the law. The NDNRC will continue to monitor the ACA’s implementation and status and report on news of any substantial challenges to the law.
* With apologies to William Shakespeare