Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision Thursday upholding the distribution of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
The lawsuit challenged the validity of federal premium tax credits to 6.4 million Americans in 34 states with federally operated insurance marketplaces. Connecticut is one of 16 states — along with the District of Columbia — with its own exchange called, Access Health CT.
Some experts said Connecticut would not have been impacted by the decision, but if the subsidies were undone for 34 states at the federal level it’s unclear whether that would have had ancillary impacts on state-based exchanges.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision. He went on to write that if subsidies were abolished, it “could well push a State’s individual insurance market into a death spiral. It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner.”
A decision against subsidies on the federal exchange would have signaled the unraveling of the Affordable Care Act and Connecticut would not have been spared its effects, Frances Padilla, President of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said.
“The latest distraction to the goal of transforming the health care system was struck down,” Padilla added. “We will aggressively continue the work.”
As of June 2015, nearly 74,682 of the 101,294 people who purchased commercial health insurance plans through Access Health CT had received federal subsidies. Most of those who signed up for health insurance through Connecticut’s exchange enrolled in Medicaid. As of June, there were 492,760 individuals in the state’s Medicaid program.
The court’s decision was praised by former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who helped draft and pass the legislation.
“The Supreme Court has now twice upheld the landmark health reform law,” Dodd said in a statement. “Today’s ruling should put to rest once and for all the attacks that have distracted from the important benefits the Affordable Care Act offers millions of Americans across the country.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that the court put the rule of law above politics.
“A commonsense reading of this measure avoids catastrophic consequences, and provides Americans life-saving medical treatment to transform lives for the better,” Blumenthal said. “This law has helped millions of Americans and will continue to do so for generations to come.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he hopes Republicans read the decision and stop trying to repeal the law.
“Now, Republicans need to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act is the law and it’s working,” Murphy said. “Millions of Americans have gained health coverage, insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and every insurer must cover preventative screenings.”
But not everyone in Connecticut agrees with the decision.
“The Affordable Care Act, contrary to what supporters will tell you, was never intended to make healthcare more affordable to everyone,” Andrew Markowski, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said. “It is essentially a health care subsidy paid for by hard working people, including the small business community in Connecticut. Today’s ruling is deeply disappointing and is just one more missed opportunity to alleviate the burden on the backs of small employers.”