Obama Addresses Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Subsidies

Jun 25, 2015
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In a decision this morning that affects millions of Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the health care subsidies that are a central part of the Affordable Care Act are legal in all 50 states. We're hearing reaction from all sides of this debate this morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican, said this decision will not change the, quote, "broken promises in the law known as Obamacare." But the 6-to-3 ruling is a major victory for the law and also for President Obama, who spoke a few minutes ago at the White House. Here are a few minutes of what he had to say there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all. Over those five years, as we've worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks. The setbacks I remember clearly.

But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working. It has changed and in some cases saved American lives. It's set this country on a smarter, stronger course. And 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.

This morning, the court upheld a critical part of this law, the part that's made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live. If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars' worth of tax credits taken from them. For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again. Many would have become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone's premiums could have gone up. America would've gone backwards, and that's not what we do. That's not what America does. We move forward.

So today is a victory for hard-working Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law. If you're a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26, something that has covered millions of young people so far. That's because of this law. If you're a senior or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions, something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far. If you're a woman, you can't be charged more than anybody else, even if you've had cancer or your husband had heart disease or just because you're a woman. Your insurer has to offer preventive services, like mammograms. They can't place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.

Because of this law and because of today's decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about 8 in 10 people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month. And when it comes to pre-existing conditions, someday our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick because that is something this law has ended for good. That affects everybody with health insurance, not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act. All of America has protections it didn't have before.

As the law's provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records, and that is something we can all be proud of. Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years. If your family gets insurance through your job - so you're not using the Affordable Care Act - you're still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn't done anything.

My one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance. That hasn't happened in 17 years, and that's good for workers, and it's good for the economy. The point is this is not an abstract thing anymore. This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality. We can see how it is working. This law is working exactly as it's supposed to.

GREENE: That is President Obama speaking a short while ago at the White House reacting to the Supreme Court's decision saying that the health care subsidies that are a central part of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare are legal in all 50 states. It was a victory for the president. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is on line from the White House, and, Tamara, I presume the president probably had two different speeches that were under works depending on how this decision went. It sounds like this is the one he clearly wanted to give.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Absolutely, and he said more than once variations on the theme Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is here to stay. That was definitely his message is, let's stop fighting over this and move on.

GREENE: We're obviously heading towards an election year. There are many people in this country, certainly many Republicans, who don't like this law. It's not popular among a good number of people. I mean, is - could this decision settle the debate, or is this going to remain very central in the political campaign as we go forward here?

KEITH: Well, based on my inbox, I would say...

GREENE: (Laughter).

KEITH: ... It is not going to settle the debate, certainly not on the rhetorical side of things. Several presidential candidates have already put out statements, Republican presidential candidates, saying the decision was a mistake, and that, if they were president, they would seek to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. So, in some ways, I mean, I think this presidential race will be about a lot of things, but one thing it could be about is deciding who you want to be the party that takes care of the Affordable Care Act going forward. This was theme in 2012 also.

GREENE: All right. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tamara.

KEITH: You're welcome.

GREENE: Again, the Supreme Court deciding this morning the health care subsidies that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act are legal in all 50 states. We'll have much more news on the radio and online from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.