Barack Obama smile

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The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, handing a major victory to the Obama administration.

The decision was 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts delivering the court's majority opinion. Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court's liberals.

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in his opinion.


The key question in the case centered on whether the federal government had the ability to provide subsidies to help low-income Americans buy health insurance.

The challengers in the case argued the way the law was written does not allow for subsidized insurance in states where the federal government had set up insurance exchanges. Instead, the challengers argued, insurance subsidies are allowed only in states that have set up their own exchanges. They pointed to a clause that they argued meant exchanges should be "established by the state," but members of Congress who were involved in writing the law disputed characterization. Thirty-four states currently rely on the federal marketplace.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. In a scathing dissent, he appeared to take a shot at Roberts.


"We should start calling this law SCOTUScare," Scalia wrote.

If the court had invalidated that portion of the law, Obama and Congress would have had to scramble as more than 6 million people could have lost their subsidies - and potentially their coverage. It would have been left to congressional Republicans to come up with either a quick fix or to use the ruling as an opportunity to start moving away from the law known as Obamacare. But Republicans were, overall, disjointed in how they planned to fix the problem.

"Today Democrats, and my guess is Republicans, are breathing one gigantic sigh of relief," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York).


"The Supreme Court decision ensures 6.4 million people will keep their coverage; it was legally the right decision and substantively the right outcome. Hopefully, our Republicans colleagues will now give up their quest to repeal Obamacare and move on to more productive activities for the middle class."

With the decision in the Obama administration's favor, court observers and health watchers said it would cement the Affordable Care Act as a key pillar of the president's legacy.

"If the Court sides with the government, more people will continue to enroll and the ACA will likely ultimately be seen as a signature domestic achievement of historic proportions," Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Business Insider before the ruling was handed down.


"Obamacare will remain controversial and no doubt feature in the election, but it's hard to see it getting repealed outright at this point."


Read the full decision below:


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