Washington – The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legality of federal subsidies that help millions of Americans purchase health insurance was lauded by the Connecticut lawmakers who supported the Affordable Care Act, but it doesn’t end the political fight over the health care law.
“Today’s ruling means that millions of people receiving health coverage through federally-based exchanges will be able to keep their subsides as the law intended,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District. “I hope that we can now set ideology aside to work together to improve coverage, control costs, and provide security and peace of mind for the people of my district and the United States.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said, “The Supreme Court made the right decision today. More than 16 million Americans now have access to affordable health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, “This decision is no doubt a validation of what we all know to be true — people deserve quality, affordable health care. And now the Supreme Court has once again ruled against those who for years have sought to fight an expansion of coverage to millions of Americans.”
The Supreme Court decided 6-3 that four words in the 900-page law — “established by the state” – did not bar states that did not establish their own insurance exchanges and relied on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, from offering subsidies to help low- and moderate- income Americans purchase insurance.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-3rd District, said, “While the language of the law was challenged, there was never a question about the intent of the Affordable Care Act— to provide subsidies for all qualifying Americans to help them afford health insurance, regardless of which state they live in.”
The nation’s health insurers were concerned that the loss of subsidies would lead to a “death spiral” as those who had received subsidies, mostly young, healthy people, dropped their coverage and premiums for others soared. Connecticut was among 13 states and the District of Columbia to establish its own exchange.
A decision by the Supreme Court striking down subsidies in the federal-exchange states, would not have directly affected subsidies in Connecticut, but the state joined an amicus brief with others defending the ACA before the court, arguing that an insurance “death spiral” in the federal-exchange states could result in higher premiums in all states.
Connecticut officials said they also were concerned an adverse decision could lead Congress to make fundamental changes in the law. Congressional Republicans hoped they could offer an extension of the subsidies, which benefit more than 6 million people in the 37 states without state exchanges, in return for other changes in the law.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said, “Without this court case we lose the leverage we would have to have the president negotiate with us.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the ACA said the court decision should put an end to the political fight over the ACA. But that’s unlikely.
A jubilant President Obama, speaking from the Rose Garden, said, “After nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
That sentiment was echoed by Connecticut Democrats.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is consistent with the text, context and history of the law: to make federal tax credits available for every eligible individual in the nation,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District. “The American people are rightly sick and tired of hearing Congress continue to have the same tired debates over a law that is working. I urge my colleagues to put this fight behind us and get to work on the real issues facing our nation.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, “As Democrats have consistently said, we meant what we wrote, and we wrote what we meant.
“From the beginning, this case was nothing more than political theater dressed up as a court case. I’m glad we can move on,” Murphy said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, said, “The Court put the rule of law above politics and affirmed what we already know — that a common-sense reading of this measure avoids catastrophic consequences, and provides Americans life-saving medical treatment to transform lives for the better.”
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for the nation’s health insurers, also said it’s time to put the issue to rest.
“With the certainty provided by the Supreme Court’s decision, now is the time to focus on what matters most to consumers – ensuring access to affordable coverage and high-quality health care. Health plans will continue to lead in advancing this goal,” said AHIP interim CEO Dan Durham.
The Supreme Court’ decision shifts the fight over the ACA to the 2016 presidential election, with GOP presidential candidates, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., saying they would repeal the health care law if elected to the White House.
Meanwhile, Hartford-based Aetna, which has opposed the health care plan’s fees on insurers, said it hoped Congress would make changes to the ACA.
“We believe that reform of the Affordable Care Act is still needed,” the company said in a statement. “We urge Congress to focus on solutions that improve quality, transition our payment system to value-based care and broaden consumer choice.”