DENVER – Reaction in Colorado to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision Thursday to uphold an important provision of the Affordable Care Act has been fairly predictable, with the right still calling for repeal and the left ready to move on.
The high court’s 6-3 ruling protects the nationwide tax subsidies critical to President Barack Obama’s health-care reform. The justices said that the subsidies received by 8.7 million Americans to make insurance affordable do not depend on whether their health exchange was set up by a state or the federal government.
With the ruling being the second major Supreme Court win for Obama – essentially sealing his health-care legacy – proponents are saying the 5-year-old overhaul is officially the law of the land.
“As a result of this ruling, over 6 million people in the ... states that use the federal health insurance marketplace can breathe a sigh of relief because they will not lose the tax credits that have made quality health insurance affordable for them,” said Elisabeth Arenales, health program director for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, who has been closely watching the case.
But the ruling does not have much impact on Colorado, where consumers are able to purchase health insurance through a separate online exchange known as Connect for Health Colorado. The state established its own marketplace, separate from the federal government’s website.
“We are fortunate that Colorado’s Legislature in 2011, on a bipartisan basis, opted to create a state-based marketplace. The questions raised in the court case have to do with the states operating within the federal exchange and do not apply to Colorado consumers,” said Kevin Patterson, chief executive of Connect for Health Colorado. “If you receive tax credits to help lower the cost of health insurance purchased through us, there is still no impact on your coverage.”
Meanwhile, critics of the health-care law remain committed to a repeal.
“Coloradans want to see the free market thrive. Repealing, and more importantly, replacing ‘SCOTUScare’ would provide more options, choice and freedom in health care,” said Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, a new organization that advocates for free-market ideas. “Creating more competition and options will result in higher quality, patient-centered and accessible care.”
Colorado’s two U.S. senators split, with Republican Cory Gardner calling for a repeal, and Democrat Michael Bennet ready to move on.
“I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with common-sense reforms that control costs, expand access to care and protect the doctor-patient relationship,” Gardner said.
Bennet countered: “Hopefully today’s decision will allow us to move past the divisive politics on this issue and toward working together on behalf of the American people. We cannot go back to the days when the insurance companies denied you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition, when the Medicare doughnut hole had seniors paying thousands more for prescription drugs, and women had to pay more for the same health coverage as men.”