By Mary Catherine Rabbitt, Esq., Colorado Legal Assistance Developer
June 26, 2015
Along with many of you, I eagerly and, at the same time , somewhat cautiously awaited the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of King et al v. Burwell, No. 14-114. The Majority Opinion, issued yesterday by Chief Justice John Roberts, caused me to both breathe a sigh of relief and, at the same time, reflect on its meaning for the seniors we serve throughout Colorado through the Legal Assistance Developer Program. I have read the Majority Opinion and the Dissenting Opinion from Justice Scalia, in addition to numerous commentaries on this momentous decision and want to share these initial reflections with you.
By a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the “Section 36B tax credits contained within the Affordable Care Act are available to individuals in States that have a federal exchange” (Slip Opinion, decided 6.25.15, p. 2). This decision marks the second time that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act and declared that it is the law of the land.
As a result of this decision, as Elisabeth Arenales remarked in a June 25th “Statement on the SCOTUS-ACA ruling” from the Colorado Center on Law & Policy, “over 6 million people in the 34 states that use the Federal Health Exchange…are guaranteed that they will not lose the tax credits that have made quality health insurance affordable for them.”
Even though Coloradans are not directly affected by this decision (since Colorado is one of only 16 states that established a state-run health exchange, “Connect For Health Colorado”), they too will benefit from this ruling. As Chief Justice Roberts remarked in the Majority Opinion, a contrary decision “would destabilize the individual insurance market in any State with a Federal Exchange, and likely create the very ‘death spirals’ that Congress designed the Act to avoid.” (Slip Opinion, p.4., emphasis added). In the concluding paragraph to his Opinion, Justice Roberts, in affirming the decision to uphold the Section 36B tax credits, correctly reasoned that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” (Slip Opinion, p. 21, emphasis added).
Judith Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, remarked that “in addition to expanding health insurance coverage to millions of people who previously went without it, the ACA strengthened and improved the Medicare program in a number of ways.” (Statement dated 6.25.15, “Supreme Court Victory for the Affordable Care Act and Access to Healthcare”).
I, too, join the chorus of those who are rejoicing in this victory and who are strengthened in our ongoing advocacy efforts to make health care available and affordable for all. The full opinion can be found at: