The U.S. Supreme Court voted in a 6-3 decision to uphold the politically controversial (but relatively popular) health care law that dramatically changed access to basic and usable health insurance in America.
The decision came just in time to prevent millions of Americans—including families with children—from losing the coverage they now have under the law. The ruling concludes that the Affordable Care Act's allowance for federal tax credits can go toward every eligible person living in the U.S., whether their state has its own exchange or relies on the federal marketplace.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion saying, "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, and the four liberal justices made up the 6 in favor of the ACA, CNN reported. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent on behalf of himself, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
The ruling renders moot what would have been a necessary effort to get a Republican Congress to amend the ACA to make subsidies only available to people who buy their insurance plans through state exchanges. That, in turn, would have meant the 34 states that don't have exchanges would have had to establish them—also unlikely.
Roberts wrote that the phrase in question about state exchanges was ambiguous but that its meaning in the law was clear. He wrote, "The context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase."