In the News

Obamacare supporters exhale as Supreme Court upholds subsidies

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Sylvan Lane
Press Release

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WASHINGTON–The Supreme Court could have gutted the Affordable Care Act on Thursday morning, leaving more than one million Texans without the tax subsidies they depend on to pay for health insurance.

It didn’t, and after months of waiting, supporters of the law took a deep breath and cheered on the court steps, relieved that the sweeping health care law survived another test.

“My stomach sank when I thought they weren’t going to approve it,” said Gwen Jackson of Sugar Land, who, along with her husband, are self-employed and depend on subsidized health insurance purchased through the federal marketplace.

But when the Court announced its 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell that individuals who’ve signed up for health coverage through federal marketplaces are eligible for tax subsidies, Jackson said she could barely contain her excitement in the stoic chamber.

Jackson’s husband, Joe, was diagnosed with an aggressive tumor and needed 12 hours of surgery and 11 days in the hospital to recover from it, she said. Afterward, Jackson said she purchased subsidized insurance through Texas’ federally-run marketplace.

She joined more than 100 pro-ACA demonstrators who chanted and cheered after the Court defeated the latest conservative challenge to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Representatives from Center for American Progress made up a little more than half of the crowd, which was mostly in its 20′s and 30′s. They held signs proclaiming “ACA is Here to Stay,” chanted the same and waved long posters with the number of Americans in each state who depend on the subsidies in question.

When word of the decision made it down to the court steps, they stuck thin yellow stickers onto the signs, reading “Still Covered.”

“If you just read the law, we were always supposed to win,” said Michele Jawando, CAP’s vice president of legal progress, but added that she was still nervous. “We’re finally at the end.”

Ron Pollack, executive director for pro-Obamacare FamiliesUSA, called the court’s decision “a big sigh of relief.”

“This decision really is a monumental victory for those who support the ACA,” said Pollack, who also said he was optimistic, but nervous. “It will continue to be the law of the land.”

Supporters sporting signs and shirts from Doctors for America, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women’s Law Center, stuck onto the massive cluster of jumping and chanting demonstrators. Reporters wove in and out, and curious tourists stopped and snapped pictures in front of the court as they roamed around Washington.

Others celebrated with an eye toward the work ahead, like Ann Marie Benitez, managing director of government relations and public affairs for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

“There’s still a lot more work to go when it comes to covering Latinas,” said Benitez, citing efforts to extend Obamacare to undocumented immigrants, those protected by Deferred Action fort Childhood Arrivals and expanding Medicaid coverage.

In Texas, 171,648 self-identifying Hispanics purchased health insurance between Oct. 1, 2013 and April 15, 2014, according to federal data. 

Even so, Benitez said the court’s decision gives Latinas confidence they’ll be able to protect themselves medically and financially.

“It’s about giving peace of mind to families so they don’t have to make decisions between ‘Can I afford health insurance or am I going to pay rent today?’” Benitez said. “There is no price tag on that.”

It was hard to find anyone in front of the court protesting the decision. It was much easier looking across the street toward the Capitol.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who clerked for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 1996, slammed the Supreme Court in a speech on the Senate floor. Teetering from animated toward angry, Cruz said the late Rehnquist would be devastated if he were alive today.

‘What this court has become is heartbreaking,” said Cruz, who argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court in private practice and as Texas’ solicitor general. “Rehnquist would be filled with sorrow.”

Cruz, a presidential candidate, also called the 2016 election a referendum on repealing Obamacare and his Texas colleague, Sen. John Cornyn, promised in a statement that Republicans would fight “tooth and nail” to get rid of it.

Advocates for the law recognize the potential danger of a Republican House, Senate and president working together to repeal Obamacare. Until then, they’re celebrating another win for the ACA.

“This is the law,” said Jawando. “If you want to work with us to improve the law, we’ll work with you. But this is the law of the land.”