“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” – Chief Justice John Roberts
Today, the Supreme Court issued two historic decisions regarding Civil Rights and Healthcare. In a 6-3 ruling the court upheld Obamacare’s insurance subsidies nationwide, rejecting a lawsuit that would have stripped health insurance from millions of Americans in 34 states. In another ruling, the court voted 5-4 to uphold the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
First, the Fair Housing Act. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., focused on the disparate impact portion of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prevented housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, in an effort to combat residential segregation during the civil rights era. A disparate impact claim means that regardless of intent, a law results in discrimination. Disparate impact is a key component of the Fair Housing Act, and is an important tool for the federal government in prosecuting instances of discrimination. The Supreme Court affirmed this component in its decision. The decision came as somewhat of a surprise to civil rights advocates who were concerned that the Roberts court, if given the chance, would rule against a disparate impact claim, thus taking the teeth out of the Fair Housing Act (1).
To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden – today’s healthcare ruling is a big freaking deal! The ruling marks the second time the Supreme Court saved President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s individual mandate and today the court ruled that the federal government can continue to provide insurance subsidies to Americans in states where hostile Republican legislatures refuse to establish state-based insurance exchanges. Today’s ruling led Justice Antonin Scalia to write in his dissent: “we should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”
This ruling has done little to stop national Republicans from calling for the laws demise. Republicans have had over five years to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act and despite voting to repeal it over 40 times Republicans never proposed an alternative to the law. 10 million Americans have received health insurance through this law, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the law will eventually cover 22 million people, in addition to 14 million Americans who will gain coverage through Medicad expansion. Obamacare is the settled law of the land and it’s time for Republicans to accept that and move on.
1. The Supreme Court saved the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Tez Clark: http://www.vox.com/2015/6/25/8845477/supreme-court-fair-housing-texas