Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, are jubilant as they celebrate a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling upholding all provisions of the health care law, in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 25, 2015. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that federal health subsidies under Obamacare are constitutional, delivering a victory to the White House.
"Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all," President Barack Obama said on the court's decision. "But as the dust has settled there can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives."
"The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," Obama added.
"My greatest hope is that rather than keep re-fighting battles that have been settled again, and again, and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward," Obama said. "Let's join together; make healthcare in America even better."
"This was a good day for America. Let's get back to work," Obama concluded.
The court ruled in a 6-3 decision. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan voted in the majority.
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the court's opinion. "If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."
Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
"The Act that Congress passed makes tax credits available only on an 'Exchange established by the State.' This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere," Scalia wrote in the court's dissenting opinion. "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."
About 6.4 million people, or 65 percent, of Obamacare recipients receive federal health subsidies.
As of March, about 10.2 million people joined Obamacare, formally called the Affordable Care Act, and paid premiums.
For the case, King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court needed to decide if it was legal for the Internal Revenue Service to provide subsidies for health insurance policies purchased on federal exchanges, as Congress wanted states to set up their own exchanges but lacks constitutional authority to enforce it.
Health insurance recipients across 34 states who rely on the federal exchange received average subsidies of $272 a month. The remaining 15 states and Washington D.C. have a state-operated exchange system.