Click to view our webinar, "King v. Burwell and Public Health." Photo by APHA

Click to view our webinar, “King v. Burwell and Public Health.” Photo by APHA

The Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell last month ended a significant threat to the Affordable Care Act in the courts.

Last week APHA hosted a webinar to discuss how the decision, which kept tax credits are available to individuals who purchased health insurance on the federal government’s exchange, will affect the our nation’s health moving forward.

“I do think it is relevant that the majority opinion concludes with the message that (applies) to all the hundreds of other litigants out there with Affordable Care Act cases pending,” said Jane Perkins, JD, from the National Health Law Program. “The court said right at the very end of the decision: Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets not to destroy them.”

According to an APHA fact sheet on King v. Burwell, more than 6 million people that currently purchase insurance on the federal government exchange could have lost their insurance if the Supreme Court decided that the tax credits were not allowed by the law. The ruling ensures that those people will retain their vital health insurance.

Another possible effect of the decision is that states with their own exchanges could transfer to the federal exchange.

“It’s going to be very important for the federal government to get the federal marketplace operation right and to work hard now to correct problems with the marketplace,” Perkins said. ”It’s entirely possible that states currently operating their own exchanges will decide to have the federal marketplace operate in their state as well.”

Challenges to the ACA’s contraceptive accommodations for nonprofits could still reach the Supreme Court. The law currently allows religious nonprofits to receive an accommodation from the law’s requirement to include coverage for contraceptives in employer health insurance policies. An accommodation means that an insurer, as a third party, can provide contraceptives even though they are not part of the health plan administered by the employer.

“If accommodations can’t be made for this benefit it’s not clear what will happen to the other benefits that are part of the federal affordable,” said Sara Rosenbaum, JD, professor of health law and policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. Nonprofit organizations have filed 68 cases objecting to the accommodation under the contraceptive requirement.

Added APHA Director of Government Relations Don Hoppert: “We’ve had members set up roundtables with senators to talk about APHA priority issues, including the Affordable Care Act, so those have been quite successful. Of course APHA has issued press statements a number of times when it comes to supporting the Affordable Care Act and opposing actions to dismantle it.”

Check out APHA’s website on health reform to learn more about the ACA.