Supreme Court Upholds Nationwide Health Care Law Subsidies | KERA News

Supreme Court Upholds Nationwide Health Care Law Subsidies

Jun 25, 2015

The Supreme Court has upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has again voted with his liberal colleagues to uphold a key portion of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The justices said in a 6-3 ruling Thursday that 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 also voted with his more liberal colleagues. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012. Justice Anthony Kennedy was a dissenter in 2012, but was part of the majority on Thursday.

Roberts says in the majority opinion, quote, "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them."

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.

Statements from Texas health representatives

Ted Shaw, president and CEO of the Texas Hospital Association:

“With more than 1 million Texans purchasing private health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace, Texas hospitals can breathe a sigh of relief now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Burwell,” Shaw said. “Texas still leads the nation in the number of uninsured and we have significant work to do to increase access to coverage. But there is little doubt that hospitals’ financial challenges would be even greater if more than 1 million Texans were added to the rolls of uninsured.”

Joel Allison, CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health:

"This was a very positive win for Texans that have gone on the marketplace exchanges and are receiving the subsidies. It's good news. As you know, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the country, and we need to continue to find ways for people to be able have access to insurance. The exchange has been very helpful. We've got more than 800,000 Texans now that are able to keep their subsidies. And that equals nearly about $2.5 billion in savings. It's a very big, positive step forward. Pleased with that result." 

Texans Who Are Affected

Lemlem Berhe is one of some 800,000 people in Texas who will get to keep subsidies that help her pay for health insurance.

The fifty-nine year old who lives in Duncanville lost her job in 2013. A few months later, she bought health insurance through the federal marketplace. Because of her income, she got a subsidy that cut her premium from nearly $600 to $45.

“If it was not for that I wouldn’t have been able to afford it honestly.”

Berhe’s son, who is in graduate school, also pays for health insurance thanks to federal subsidies. While Texas Republicans are criticizing the Supreme Court’s ruling, Dallas-Fort Worth hospital leaders are calling it a step in the right direction.

“We have seen the rate of Texans without health insurance fall 8 percentage points since enrollment in the federal care act began.”

If Texas Expands Medicaid

There are a million more Texans who would get federal funding to pay for their health care if Texas chose to expand Medicaid. Texas is one of 19 states that’s rejected billions in government dollars. 

The complex back and forth between the federal and state government and insurers is driving Pleasant Grove resident Bonnie Mathias crazy.

“With this system, there’s too many hands in the pot.”

After retiring, Mathias was receiving subsidized coverage for $211 a month. In May, she found out that price would jump to $327.00. Then, she learned she was going to lose the subsidies. She says the government couldn’t find her income information.

“So I’m in the process of filing an appeal…but it can take up to 90 days…”

If all goes well, she’ll get the subsidies back, and this time, with a stamp of approval from the Supreme Court.

Check out the SCOTUS blog discussing opinions on the ruling.