WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act has survived its second Supreme Court challenge, with a divided court agreeing with the Obama administration that government subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of poor and middle-class Americans should be available nationwide.
While there are more challenges to come, the organization representing the nation’s traditional drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchants with pharmacies reacted to the news of the high court’s June 25 ruling with assurances that its members will continue working to assert pharmacy’s role within the health care delivery system.
“Given the Supreme Court’s decision, NACDS remains focused on advocating for implementation of pharmacy Medicaid provisions of the Affordable Care Act in a manner that is consistent with the law and that fosters access to pharmacy patient care,” the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said in a statement. “Pharmacy also remains committed to helping patients understand their coverage, which has been a priority throughout the rollout of exchange-based insurance, as well as to maximizing the valuable role of pharmacies in today’s evolving health care models.”
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reacted to the ruling by calling on Congress to “seize the opportunity and address the most egregious errors in this poorly constructed law to ease unreasonable compliance burdens and reduce the cost of coverage for employers and employees alike.”
The federation’s senior vice president for government relations, David French, noted that critics in Congress have been vowing for the past five years to strike down the health care law and replace it with a better model.
“There are no more excuses for congressional inaction and political posturing,” French said. “We urge Congress to seize the moment and fix the health care law.”
The NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers in the United States and at least 45 other countries.
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) also weighed in on the high court’s historic ruling. “Community pharmacists are critical frontline providers of care to many Americans, particularly those in underserved rural and inner-city areas. Every day they help patients, with or without insurance, obtain the prescription drugs or other care that they need,” B. Douglas Hoey, the association’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“While the political debate over U.S. health care will continue, today’s ruling provides a degree of clarity for community pharmacists as they continue to help patients navigate a complicated health care system.”
President Obama also issued a statement following the ruling: “Today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” the president declared.
In the case before the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, the plaintiffs had asked the justices to revoke subsidies provided to the roughly 7.5 million people who bought their health insurance on the federal exchange and who live in one of the 34 states that declined to create state exchanges under the ACA. The federal exchange was created for residents of such states.
The justices voted 6-3 to affirm an Internal Revenue Service ruling that subsidies should be available not only in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges, but also in those where consumers rely on the federal exchange.
The court was interpreting a passage in the law that said the tax credits are authorized for those who buy health insurance on marketplaces that are “established by the state.” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said that while the law’s wording was problematic, Congress’ intent was clear.
Joining Roberts in affirming the law were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Opposing were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.