Thursday, June 25, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down King v. Burwell Challenge to ACA

Ruling, announced hours before planned Memphis rally for Insure Tennessee by Democratic legislators, allows federally run exchanges to disburse subsidies.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 9:52 AM

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Even as members of the Democratic caucus of he Tennessee General Assembly prepared to hold a press conference Thursday morning on behalf of Insure Tennessee, Govenor Bill Haslam’s Medicaid-expansion proposal, news came of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, under which Insure Tennessee would operate.

By a 6-3 vote, the Justices decided against the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, a suit that challenged the validity of insurance subsidies paid under the ACA through federally run exchanges rather than the state-run exchanges specifically enabled by the Act.. A number of Republican-dominated states, mainly Southern and including Tennessee, had declined to establish state-run exchanges.

In its majority opinion, the Court said, "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.”

9th District Congressman Steve Cohen issued a statement welcoming the opinion:
“This ruling affirms that the subsidies that the Affordable Care Act provides to our citizens are legal. I am pleased that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the law, which is working and helping make health coverage affordable for millions of Americans, including more than 230,000 Tennesseans who are receiving an average of $213 each month through the law. I hope that this ruling will help the nation to see that the Affordable Care Act is a federal law that is helping Americans stay healthy and alive, and that it is here to stay. I also remain hopeful that the Tennessee General Assembly will finally act to expand Medicaid so that our citizens can access the same benefits of the law that residents of other states do.”

The Tennessee Republican Party issued a statement critical of the ruling:
“ObamaCare was created, passed, and implemented on a party-line basis. Democrats essentially shoved this down the throats of Americans and it is disheartening to see the Court develop another avenue to keep this hurtful law alive. Individuals and businesses are struggling under this law. Republicans are going to continue offering solutions to actually drive health care costs down and make quality health care accessible once again—which is the exact opposite of what Americans have gotten under this flawed law.”

Although the Medicaid-expansion component of the ACA was not specifically challenged by King v. Burwell, a successful outcome for the suit would have seriously hampered — and perhaps crippled — all parts of its functioning.

Insure Tennessee, which Thursday’s press conference by Democratic legislators supports, was prevented from reaching the floor of either the state House or the state Senate during the 2016 legislative session, having been blocked in committee in both a February special session and the regular session itself.

One of the arguments made by GOP opponents against the Affordable Care Act (and hence against Insure Tennessee) had been that King v. Burwell,if successful, would make the Act unworkable.

Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), leader of House Democrats in Tennessee, addressed the point in his post-ruling statement and renewed a Democratic call for a second special session:
"Regardless of your feelings about the Affordable Care Act, one of the most conservative courts in the history of this country has ruled--again--that it is the law of the land. There are no more excuses for this legislature or its leadership to ignore the 300,000 working men and women waiting on health care. We have work to do. It is my hope that the Governor and our speakers will call legislators back to Nashville immediately to work on passing Insure Tennessee."

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