Supreme Court Once Again Votes to Uphold the Affordable Care Act


Supporters of the Affordable Care Act hold up signs as the opinion for health care is reported outside of the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

June 25, 2015

By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, a ruling that will allow the government to continue providing nationwide tax subsidies to the 8.7 million people currently receiving them to pay for their insurance.

The decision in the case, King v Burwell, represents a landmark affirmation for the president’s most significant domestic policy achievement. A ruling for the challengers would have threatened to unravel a central element of the law: language that provides for subsidies in the roughly three dozen states that have declined to establish a marketplace for the uninsured to shop for individual health plans.

In states that have not set up a marketplace, uninsured Americans are able to purchase plans and receive tax credits through exchanges operated by the federal government. But challengers in the case seized on six words in the law that they argued only allow for subsidies for people purchasing insurance on “an exchange established by the state.” Had they won, federal tax credits in states without their own exchanges would have been unconstitutional. Without those credits, the law would become unsustainable.

But in their second major decision upholding the law — commonly known as Obamacare — justices on the High Court rejected that argument. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

The case was only the latest in a long line of challenges — both legal and politically ideological — to the Affordable Care Act, since it was first argued in Congress and then signed into law by the president. In the 2010 FRONTLINE film Obama’s Deal, we looked at the contentious debate in Washington around Obamacare, how it came to be passed and some of the arguments that would lay the groundwork for the Supreme Court challenges to the case. You can watch the full film here:

Jason M. Breslow

Jason M. Breslow, Digital Editor



In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Wisconsin Recount Targets 2 Democratic Strongholds, Home to Black and Hispanic Voters
Unlike other places, where the Trump campaign has pursued statewide recounts, the Wisconsin request was limited to Dane and Milwaukee Counties, where Biden held solid leads.
November 25, 2020
7 New Documentaries to Watch over Thanksgiving Break in 2020
Plus, one new podcast to listen to.
November 25, 2020
‘I'm Not A Monster’: Who's Who from the Podcast
Meet the key players in 'I Am Not A Monster,' a special podcast series on how an American mother ended up in the heart of ISIS' self-declared caliphate.
November 24, 2020
On Night of Ginsburg’s Death, McConnell Pushed Trump to Nominate Amy Coney Barrett
An excerpt from FRONTLINE’s ‘Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court’ goes inside Sen. McConnell’s swift maneuvering to achieve a 6-3 conservative majority.
November 24, 2020