KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roberts Leads Court In A 6-3 Decision Upholding Health Law Subsidies

The high court issued its decision in King v. Burwell. Check back here often as KHN rounds up news stories on the case from around the web.

Kaiser Health News: High Court Upholds Health Law Subsidies
The Affordable Care Act survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, raising odds for its survival but by no means ending the legal and political assaults on it five years after it became law. The 6-3 ruling stopped a challenge that would have erased subsidies in at least 34 states for individuals and families buying insurance through the federal government’s online marketplace. Such a result would have made coverage unaffordable for millions and created price spirals for those who kept their policies, many experts predicted. (Hancock, 6/25)

Here is a link to the Supreme Court ruling.

The Associated Press: Supreme Court Upholds Nationwide Health Care Law Subsidies
The Supreme Court has upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans. The justices said in a 6-3 ruling Thursday that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law. (Sherman, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Upholds Obama’s Health-Law Subsidies
The ruling, in a 6-3 vote, preserves a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act and marks the second time in four years an attempt to gut the law has fallen short in the courts. Chief Justice John Roberts. who wrote the majority opinion, has twice now joined with the court’s liberal wing to uphold the law. Joining Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Dissenting were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. (Kendall and Radnofsky, 6/24)

The New York Times: Supreme Court Allows Nationwide Health Care Subsidies
The case concerned a central part of the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The law created marketplaces, known as exchanges, to allow people who lack insurance to shop for individual health plans. Some states set up their own exchanges, but about three dozen allowed the federal government to step in to run them. Across the nation, about 85 percent of customers using the exchanges qualify for subsidies to help pay for coverage, based on their income. The question in the case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, was what to make of a phrase in the law that seems to say the subsidies are available only to people buying insurance on “an exchange established by the state.” (Liptak, 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Subsidies, A Victory For The President
By affirming the system of tax subsidies, the justices have the put the law on a firmer legal ground as a nationwide program to help all Americans obtain health insurance they can afford. The ruling will also come as a relief to Democratic lawmakers, Congressional aides and health policy advocates who scrambled to put the complex law together late in 2009. They had devised an intricate plan to build on the nation’s private insurance system and require everyone with a taxable income to buy insurance or pay a penalty. For those who could not afford the full cost, they extended government-paid insurance for some and offered tax subsidies for others. These subsidies are offered to those with incomes up to $95,000 for a family of four. (Savage, 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Appears To Be About As Established As A Law Can Be In Divided U.S.
In the decision, Roberts explicitly blessed the law’s sweeping system for guaranteeing coverage, noting that the model succeeded where previous attempts had failed. And although many Republicans kept up their rhetorical attacks in the ruling’s immediate aftermath, the prospects that the GOP would take away coverage from the more than 20 million Americans who have come to rely on the law have all but evaporated. In Washington, congressional Republicans have no plan to replace the law President Obama signed more than five years ago. (Levey, 6/25)

Politico: Obama's Healthcare Legacy Sealed
On a practical level, it also preserves the mandate, the tenet at the center of the law and of its controversy, that every American buy health insurance. ... After so many other presidents tried and failed to revamp the health care system, Obamacare has become the crowning domestic initiative of [President Barack Obama's] tenure, and he can point to concrete results, including reducing the uninsured rate to the lowest level in recent history. (Wheaton, 6/25)

Bloomberg: Obama Health Care Win Cements Legacy In A Key Week For His Presidency
With the Supreme Court's unequivocal 6-3 opinion Thursday to uphold the law against a challenge from Republicans, the president's legacy is now affirmed, and by no less a figure than Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative whose nomination Obama opposed as senator and who wrote the majority opinion affirming a key provision of a law that passed Congress without a single Republican vote. While Republican presidential candidates are promising to continue the health care debate, the Court's ruling gives Obama an victory that backers predict will set him up for an unexpectedly productive final year in office. (Talev and Sink, 6/25)

The Hill: Supreme Court Upholds ObamaCare Subsidies
The case, King v. Burwell, represented the biggest legal threat to ObamaCare since the Supreme Court ruled the law was constitutional three years ago. It puts an abrupt end to the years-long challenge from conservatives, led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that have levied a half-dozen other lawsuits against the five-year-old law. The challengers argued that the Affordable Care Act only allowed subsidies to be used in marketplaces “established by the state,” which they said excluded those on the federal marketplace. (Ferris and Sullivan, 6/25)

Politico: High Court Rules For White House In Obamacare Subsidies Case
The majority justices wrote that the four-word phrase that the challengers said proved that the law limited subsidies was “inartful.” The whole law, Roberts said, “contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting” — a phrase that prompted laughter in the courtroom. A ruling against the Obama administration would have eliminated the subsidies in the 34 states — including pivotal 2016 presidential battlegrounds such as Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio — that refused to set up an insurance exchange. The Urban Institute estimated that more than 8.2 million people would be uninsured as a result, which could have dramatically destabilized insurance markets. (Haberkorn and Gerstein, 6/25)

USA Today: First Take: Roberts To The Rescue On Obamacare, Again
John Roberts is an unlikely savior for President Obama. The 17th chief justice of the United States bailed out his president's signature health care law Thursday, just as he had done three years ago, ensuring Obama leaves office with his biggest achievement largely intact. (Wolf and Heath, 6/25)

CNN: Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Subsidies
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter." (de Vogue, 6/25)

Reuters: Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Insurance Subsidies
Justice Antonin Scalia took the relatively rare step of reading a summary of his dissenting opinion from the bench. In his reading of the statute, "it is hard to come up with a reason to use these words other than the purpose of limiting credits to state exchanges," Scalia said. (Hurley, 6/25)

NBC News: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Obama Health Care Law
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." (Williams, 6/25)

Politico: Antonin Scalia: SCOTUScare Is The New Obamacare
Scalia is known for his colorful rhetoric, which he has said he includes to entice the general public to read the country’s highest court’s decisions. His dissent in King v. Burwell showcases his knack for rhetorical flair. He calls one aspect of the majority’s opinion “Pure applesauce,” reviving a phrase from a 2007 dissent which deemed an opinion from fellow Justice Stephen Breyer “sheer applesauce.” And at one point he refers to the majority’s “interpretive jiggery-pokery” which he believes has misinterpreted the law. (Lerner, 6/25)

Time: The 7 Best Lines from Justice Scalia’s Obamacare Dissent
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act won the battle of opinions at the Supreme Court Thursday, but critics may win the battle of words. ... the fiery dissent from conservative Justice Antonin Scalia — joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — features a number of zingers, applause lines and harshly worded criticism. Here’s a look at seven of his best lines. (Beckwith, 6/25)

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