In the most widely anticipated decision of its term and one of the most significant health care rulings in more than a century, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Affordable Care Act, a signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration designed to fundamentally shift the nation’s health system away from treatment towards prevention.
In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that the federal government is authorized to require all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. SCOTUSblog, which had more than 560,000 viewers tuning in minutes before the ruling was announced, was one of the first to report the news.
“Bottom line: The entire ACA upheld, with the exception that the federal govenrment’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly limited.”
APHA celebrated today’s ruling as a major public health achievement.
“The Supreme Court’s decision allows for long-overdue changes made possible by the law to move forward without question or further delay,” said APHA’s Executive Director Georges Benjamin.
The law will bring relief to millions of Americans in addition to those who are already receiving life-saving benefits, including:
- 31 million Americans are projected to gain health coverage by 2019 due to critical upcoming reforms, including the exchanges, exchange subsidies, minimum coverage provision and Medicaid expansion;
- 54 million U.S. families have additional benefits, including greater access to preventive health care services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, such as vaccines and preventive care and screenings for women;
- 2.5 million young adults up to age 26 are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans;
- nearly 18 million children with pre-existing conditions are protected from insurance coverage denials;
- 3.6 million seniors received 50 percent discounts on their drugs in 2011 as an initial step in closing the “donut hole”; and
- nearly 33 million seniors accessed preventive services now available without cost-sharing through Medicare.
“In upholding these essential reforms, today’s decision marks tremendous progress towards reshaping our health system into one that saves the lives of at least 44,000 people who die annually simply because they do not have health insurance that could keep them healthy,” Benjamin said.
A long-time advocate of improving access to care for all Americans, APHA was a signatory on two friend-of-the-court briefs with other health groups in support of the law.