The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a key part of President Barack Obama’s health law did more than preserve subsidies for millions of Americans. For the second time in three years, it helped cement his legacy.
“After multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden, standing before a phalanx of news media and aides. “Today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country, whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.”
In 2012, the health law survived a constitutional challenge and later that year became a major issue in the president’s re-election campaign. The Republican-controlled House has voted more than 50 times to repeal the law.
In his 10-minute talk, Obama reminded Americans that the law is working and stressed that it has helped slow rising health costs to their lowest rate in 50 years.
“The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore,” he said. “This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality. We can see how it is working. This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to. In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to.”
The president said he would become more active in working to persuade Republican governors and state legislators to expand Medicaid under the law. The Supreme Court in 2012 made Medicaid expansion optional for states. Twenty-one states, including Florida and Texas, have yet to adopt it. “We still have states out there that for political reasons are not covering millions of people,” Obama said.
Republicans have shown no willingness to drop their opposition to the law, which has helped reduce the uninsured rate in many states by half since 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement the law continues to be bad for America. “Today’s ruling won’t change Obamacare’s multitude of broken promises, including the one that resulted in millions of Americans losing the coverage they had and wanted to keep,” he said.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was even more blunt: “We are going to continue to work to repeal and replace this health care law,” he said on the House floor.
Obama said he knew the law is still misunderstood and even people who enjoy its benefits don’t realize their connection to it. He noted when people gain either subsidized coverage or Medicaid, they don’t get an “Obamacare card.”
“This has never been a government takeover of health care,” Obama said, responding to a common GOP sound bite.
Obama compared the impact on Americans to the passage of Social Security in the 1930s and of the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. He said the health law made sure all Americans have access to health care insurance regardless of where they live or their health condition. “This generation of Americans chose to finish the job….This was a good day for America.”