Washington, (IANS) In a huge victory for President Barack Obama, the US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld his signature healthcare law that opposition Republicans have tried to repeal countless times.
All the Republican presidential candidates have vowed to dump it with Louisiana’s Indian American governor Bobby Jindal making it the second of his top four objectives after “secure our borders”.
“I will replace Obamacare with a healthcare system that focuses on reducing costs and restoring freedom,” Jindal declared on Wednesday as he became the first Indian American and 13th Republican candidate to jump into the 2016 White House race.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Affordable Care Act authorised federal tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance nationwide and not just in states with their own exchanges to shop for them.
Only 16 states and the American capital of Washington have set up their own exchanges and over 6.4 million Americans living in 34 Republican-ruled states which did not create such market places are dependent on federal exchanges.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, wrote in the majority opinion joined by another conservative and the four liberal justices.
“If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter,” he said.
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said “we should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” referring to the two times the Court has saved the law.
Challenge to the Act hinged on just four words in the law that they argued made subsidies available only to people buying insurance on “an exchange established by the state”.
Congress made the distinction, they said, to encourage states to create their own exchanges and when that failed on a large scale, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tried to “fix” the law.
The income-based subsidies are crucial to the law’s success, helping to make health insurance more affordable and ultimately reducing the number of uninsured Americans.
Several Republican presidential candidates quickly denounced the ruling with Senator Marco Rubio saying the court had “once again erred… in forcing Obamacare on the American people”.