President Obama declared it a “good day for America” on Thursday morning after the Supreme Court upheld a key part of his signature healthcare law and cemented a piece of his legacy that the president proudly calls “Obamacare.”
The Affordable Care Act is now “woven into the fabric of America,” Obama told reporters in a partially ad-libbed set of remarks from the White House Rose Garden, scoffing at the “misinformation,” “doomsday” predictions and “political noise” that have surrounded his law for five years.
“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama declared.
Today, he said, “it has changed and, in some cases, saved American lives.”
“As the dust has settled,” he went on, “there can be no doubt that the law is working.”
The decision was a major victory for Obama. In issuing it, the court said the government may continue to provide tax subsidies for low- and middle-income people who buy insurance through the marketplaces set up under the law, even in states that did not create their own.
The decision rejects a challenge that could have left more than 6 million Americans to find new ways to pay for their coverage.
If tax credits were not available in some states, the court majority said, it “could well push a state’s individual market into a death spiral.”
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the text and structure of the law make the intent of Congress clear. Lawmakers meant for the insurance subsidies to be available nationwide.
“Had Congress meant to limit tax credits to state exchanges, it likely would have done so in the definition of an ‘applicable taxpayer’ or in some other prominent manner,” Roberts wrote. “It would not have used such a winding path of connect-the-dots provisions about the amount of the credit.”
The court’s decision forecloses the preferred route of Republicans who want to get rid of the law, leaving GOP leaders to return to their plans to repeal and replace the measure. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said he would push to repeal the law and replace it with “patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners and middle-class families.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the only way to “fix our broken healthcare system” now is to elect a Republican president.
In its early days, “Obamacare” was coined as a derisive term by critics. Over the years, Obama and his supporters co-opted the term by using it themselves.
On Thursday, Obama did so triumphantly, arguing that Americans have already come to rely on the law even if they don’t realize it is helping them.
“This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation or Obamacare as a political football,” Obama said. “Unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington.
“Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefiting from the law but don’t even know it,” he said. “There’s no card that says ‘Obamacare’ when you enroll.”
That’s by design, he said, with Vice President Joe Biden standing at his side and nodding.
“This has never been a government takeover of healthcare, despite cries to the contrary,” Obama said. “This reform remains what it has always been, a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made healthcare in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you, the consumer, the American people.”