Chief Justice Roberts: Congress passed ACA to improve insurance markets, not destroy them

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act for a second time, stating that states with federally run exchanges can still receive tax subsidies. Had the court ruled against subsidies, millions of Americans would have been left without means to pay their insurance premiums. The court also also sided with civil rights activists in a challenge to housing law. Gwen Ifill reports.

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    For the second time, the president's signature health care program has survived a potentially life-or-death legal challenge.

    Today's Supreme Court decision created waves of relief at the White House and beyond.


    ACA is here to stay!


    Supporters of the Affordable Care Act erupted in cheers outside the court as the news reached the marble steps. An hour later, President Obama and Vice President Biden stepped into the White House Rose Garden to savor the victory.


    There can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed, and in some cases saved American lives. It's set this country on a smarter, stronger course.

    And, today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.


    The law had survived a previous Supreme Court test. This time, opponents challenged the federal subsidies that underpinned its health coverage, specifically in 34 states that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges.

    By 6-3, the court said the subsidies do apply. Had the decision gone the other way, more than six million people could have lost their health coverage. Chief Justice John Roberts took note of that potential in his majority opinion, saying: "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them."

    But Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, read aloud from the bench, was scathing. He said, in part: "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare," alluding to the court's 2012 decision to uphold the law for a different reason.

    The high court also sided with civil rights activists in a high-profile challenge to housing law. In a case from Texas, the justices voted 5-4 that discrimination lawsuits can be brought even if the action was unintentional.

    But it was the ACA decision that dominated the day.

    Ron Pollack of FAMILIES USA, which favors the law, was at the Supreme Court and welcomed the outcome.

  • RON POLLACK, Executive Director, Families USA:

    It means that the millions of people who have been receiving subsidies that make all the difference in terms of whether health insurance is affordable, people will continue to receive those subsidies and they will continue to have health insurance.


    Those on the losing side lamented the decision. Sam Kazman is with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a member of the plaintiffs' legal team.

  • SAM KAZMAN, Competitive Enterprise Institute:

    Today's ruling is a tragedy for the rule of law in this country. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has twisted and somersaulted on traditional rules of statutory interpretation and essentially allowed the IRS to rewrite the very statute that Congress enacted.


    Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, vowed to continue their effort to roll back the whole law.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), Speaker of the House: Obamacare is fundamentally broken. It's raising costs for people. It's pushing people out of the ability to afford health insurance. And it needs to be dealt with. But, as we know, it's been — it's very difficult to deal with it when you have a president that fundamentally disagrees with us. And so the struggle will continue.


    Also among those vowing repeal, several presidential candidates now running to succeed Mr. Obama.

    We will have more on the health care and housing decisions after the news summary.

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