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SCOTUS Upholds Subsidies for Affordable Care Act

Ruling preserves tax credits for 6.4 million people in 34 states

FRIDAY, June 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Supreme Court upheld on Thursday the legality of tax subsidies for millions of Americans who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling means 6.4 million Americans in 34 states will continue to receive the subsidies -- sometimes called tax credits -- that help pay for their health plan premiums under the health-reform law. The 6-3 decision, which included an affirmative vote from Chief Justice John Roberts, is the second big victory for President Barack Obama and his signature domestic achievement. "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," wrote Roberts in the majority opinion.

The tax credit case -- known as King v. Burwell -- was the latest in a string of court cases contesting core elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Roberts also was the key vote that upheld the constitutionality of the law in 2012. The key point of contention in King v. Burwell was whether people in states that failed to set up their own health marketplaces, or exchanges, to buy insurance under the ACA could qualify for the tax credits if they use the federally run HealthCare.gov online exchange.

Opponents of the ACA insisted that, as the 2010 law was written, the tax credits could only be offered with insurance purchased through online exchanges operated by individual states. But only 13 states and the District of Columbia created their own exchanges. Most of the states that chose not to create exchanges are headed by Republicans opposed to the ACA. The Obama administration insisted that Congress intended to make the tax credits available to all eligible buyers, whether they use the federal HealthCare.gov exchange or a state-established exchange. The Supreme Court agreed.

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