At last! the decision that all Americans — for different reasons — have been waiting for. The Supreme Court has kept the Affordable Care Act viable, at least until the next assault. Justices Kennedy and Roberts joined the progressives on the Court in the 6-3 decision. The ruling affirmed that subsidies for eligible poor and middle-class individuals are legal in federal exchanges. It is estimated that as many as 9.6 million people would have lost their coverage if the Court had upheld the challenge to the ACA, although the Court could not take that effect into account in its analysis of the wording of the law. Mother Jones has a clear and succinct summary of how the ACA works, the case against it and the ruling that saves it.
The argument against the healthcare law was based on six words (“an Exchange established by the State”) that would rule out federal subsidies in states (34 as of now) that didn’t establish their own exchanges (insurance marketplaces that enable consumers to price and compare plans).
Does it make sense that those six words out of 235,000 in 906 pages of legal text were deliberately written with the purpose of invalidating the entire act? Republicans think so. Sen. Rand Paul, presidential hopeful from Kentucky, said, “This decision turns both the rule of law and common sense on its head.”
Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the dissent, characterized the majority opinion as “”interpretive jiggery-pokery,” a “defense of the indefensible,” “pure applesauce,” and “interpretive somersaults.”
Chief Justice Roberts, enraging conservatives by rescuing the ACA for a second time, did not agree with his conservative colleagues. He crystallized the logical underpinning of the majority opinion:
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.
The Republican reaction? Knowing that while Obama is president he will never sign a law that undermines or repeals one of his signature achievements; and that Democrats, though in the minority, would not help them to override Obama’s hypothetical veto, Republicans have a simple strategy for overturning the SCOTUS decision: elect a Republican president and maintain the congressional Republican majority to repeal Obamacare.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) of Wyoming, the Republican tasked to head the Senate’s response to the ruling: “We will continue to try to pull parts of the law down, but we need a willing partner in the White House to accomplish these things.”
Jeb Bush: “disappointed … but not the end of the fight against Obamacare…”
Marco Rubio: “ObamaCare is still a bad law that is having a negative impact on our country and on millions of Americans. I remain committed to repealing this bad law and replacing it…”
Republican presidential candidates have a ready-made issue: Obamacare is bad; elect me and I’ll repeal it or replace it. They no longer have to contend with the Democratic argument that they will deny healthcare to millions of people.
Today’s favorable decision on Obamacare was critical, but it’s obvious that the ACA is not necessarily here to stay. It is on firm ground until the next president takes the oath of office in a year and a half. If Republicans were to give up their idée fixe of dismantling the ACA or nullifying it completely and instead collaborated with Democrats to improve it … Ah, well. In another life.