In the case of King v Burwell, the US Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision Thursday, upheld the regulation issued by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service through which tax credits are made available for purchasers of health insurance through the federal exchange established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals had previously upheld the agencies’ interpretation regarding tax credits, and the Supreme Court agreed that the ACA allows tax credits for purchasers of health insurance through the federal exchange.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, as he did in the first major ACA vote by the high court in 2012, which was a 5-4 decision. Joning the majority on this occasion was Justice Kennedy, along with the liberal wing of Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg and Breyer; while the conservative wing of Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissented.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said in a statement: “Today’s decision is a stark reminder of the power the Supreme Court’s justices wield over Americans’ everyday lives. It matters greatly who serves on our Nation’s highest court. I have long said that Supreme Court justices must be able to grasp the impact of their decisions on the lives of hardworking Americans. I am relieved that this decision supports all Americans, and especially Vermonters who will continue to have access to health insurance under this law.
“The decision is a win for all Americans who can continue to access vital health insurance through the Affordable Care Act regardless of the State in which they live. For the American people, for state governments, and for federal agencies and policymakers, it dispels the cloud of uncertainty about Americans’ access to health insurance. The Court affirmed what has always been true – that the tax credits are integral to the entire framework of the Affordable Care Act. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts made it clear that these credits are essential to prevent ‘the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid.’”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) issued this statement: “The Supreme Court recognized the common-sense reading of the Affordable Care Act that Congress intended to help all eligible Americans obtain health insurance whether they get it through state or national exchanges. Access to affordable health care should not depend on where you live.
“At a time when the United States in the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all Americans – and 35 million of our citizens today still lack insurance – it would have been an outrage to throw 6.4 million more people off health insurance.
“What the United States should do is join every other major nation and recognize that health care is a right of citizenship. A Medicare-for-all, single-payer system would provide better care at less cost for more Americans.”
Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said. “For the second time, the highest court in the land has affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. And, after over 50 votes, Congress has failed to repeal the law. Over 16 million previously uninsured Americans now have the peace of mind that comes with health care coverage. This law, while by no means perfect, is clearly constitutional and clearly the law of the land. It’s time for Congress to focus on fixing it rather than repealing it so that all Americans finally have access quality and affordable health care.”
Governor Peter Shumlin said: “I am pleased with today’s Supreme Court ruling and the strong vote. This is very good news for the 6.4 million Americans who were in danger of losing their affordable health care coverage. Although Vermonters’ federal subsidies were secure due to our decision to have a state-based exchange, I am glad that the rest of the country will not lose the significant ground gained in health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
"We are making progress to deliver the services Vermonters expect through Vermont Health Connect. We have insured nearly 20,000 Vermonters who previously did not have insurance, and now Vermont has the second lowest rate of uninsured in the nation. Today could have been a very bad day for the country. I hope Americans who rely on federal subsidies for affordable health care can rest a little easier tonight.”
Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott said: “For 18 months, officials have dismissed repeated calls to explore alternatives to our dysfunctional exchange, saying to do so would put Vermonters at risk of losing their subsidies. Now, with today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that federal subsidies can be offered in both state and federal health care exchanges, that fear is eliminated, and it’s clear we must immediately explore alternatives to Vermont Health Connect. These alternatives could be a regional partnership with other states like Connecticut, a partnership with the federal exchange, or a full transition to the federal exchange. For far too long, Vermonters have been underserved and frustrated by this $200 million system. Now that the fear of losing subsidies is no longer a valid argument, we must find the best path to affordable, accessible health insurance for every Vermonter.”