UPDATE: Supreme Court upholds national Obamacare subsidies - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Supreme Court upholds national Obamacare subsidies

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By PETE WILLIAMS, NBC News

(NBC News) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the reach of the Obama health care law, rescuing the program from a potentially fatal legal challenge for the second time since Obamacare's inception.
By a 6-3 vote, the justices said consumers qualify for a subsidy that lowers the cost of premiums whether they buy their coverage through federal or state exchanges. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.

"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," the court wrote in its majority opinion .

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissenters, said people should start calling the law "SCOTUScare."

"This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

More than six million lower-income Americans who get their health insurance through the federal marketplace or exchange — HealthCare.Gov — depend on the subsidies, reducing their premiums an average of 72 percent, saving an average of $270 a month.

Opponents of the law claimed that the actual wording of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress made subsidies available only to insurance customers who bought their policies through "an exchange established by the state" where the policyholders live.

If the challengers had prevailed, customers who bought their insurance on the federal exchange — by far the majority of those insured by Obamacare — would have lost the subsidies. Only 16 states now have their own health exchanges up and running.

The health insurance industry had warned that if the challenge succeeded, the Affordable Care Act would have entered a "death spiral" — with costs rising for a shrinking number of participants, eventually causing the system to collapse.

Among the law's provisions are requirements that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions and that nearly all Americans obtain health insurance. Congress knew that those components of the health care system would not work, the Obama administration had argued, if the subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of people were available only on state exchanges.

Statements from politicians in the region began rolling in Thursday after the decision.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R  -TN - “Today's ruling affirms that it is up to Congress to come together around a responsible solution that provides relief from the damaging effects of the president's health care law, including policies to provide far greater choice in the marketplace so affordable plans that meet the actual needs of Tennesseans can openly and effectively compete for their business,” said Corker.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R - TN - “It's unfortunate that the Supreme Court didn't read the law the way that Congress wrote it. The 36 percent increase in some individual health care rates announced recently should remind Tennesseans that Obamacare was an historic mistake. It gave Americans higher health care costs while reducing our choices of health plans, doctors and hospitals. Republicans are ready to reduce the cost of health care so more people can afford it, put patients back in charge, and restore freedom and choice to the health care market.”

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R - GA - “Today's ruling doesn't change the fact that Obamacare is a disaster and should be entirely repealed. Right now, many Georgians are seeing their premiums skyrocket by double-digits, their hours cut back because of the employer mandate, and less access to the doctors of their choice because of the empty promises made by President Obama. These aren't theoretical problems discussed in a courtroom. They are real-world economic problems caused by Obamacare. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a patient-centered alternative.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R - GA - "Today the Supreme Court failed to recognize how terribly flawed President Obama's health care law is for millions of Georgians suffering under the law's health insurance premium spikes and intrusive mandates. Despite this action by the Supreme Court I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to repeal and replace Obamacare."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R - Ooltewah, TN - “I agree with Justice Scalia that this decision is ‘quite absurd.' While I am disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling, the decision today confirmed what we have said all along: Obamacare is a poorly written law that was not read by the Members of Congress who passed it. Although this is a setback, it is by no means the end of our fight. I will continue to work to repeal Obamacare and replace it with true free market healthcare reform that benefits hardworking families and businesses in East Tennessee.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R - Ranger, GA - “I am very disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to once again save Obamacare from itself. Although the Court has spoken, I will continue working to protect my constituents from the harmful effects of this law. My hope is that the next president will work with Congress to repeal the law and replace it with legislation that restores freedom, puts patients first and expands choice.”

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R - Jasper, TN - “I am terribly disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling. As I have said from the beginning, this issue goes well beyond the Affordable Care Act and to the very heart of our constitutional separation of powers. The Supreme Court has further expanded executive power to the point where the White House now believes it has the ability to unilaterally change laws – a power exclusively reserved for Congress. Though subsidies have been preserved for less than 5 percent of individuals, it does not change the fact that the vast majority of Tennesseans will continue to face unaffordable premiums and deductibles, which are set to increase by double-digits next year. That is why it is imperative we continue in our efforts to repeal this law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of Tennessee seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association president and CEO Scott P. Serota issued the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court's decision in the King v. Burwell case -Today's Supreme Court ruling ensures that millions of Americans can receive financial assistance from the government to help them continue to afford their health insurance coverage. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are committed to providing quality, affordable coverage community by community, nationwide, and we will continue in that long tradition.

There is still more work to be done to make healthcare more affordable.

BCBS companies are partnering with patients, physicians and hospitals to transform the healthcare system to provide coordinated, quality care that helps patients get healthy faster and stay healthy longer, while reining in costs for everyone.


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