President Barack Obama strode into the Rose Garden on Thursday emboldened by a second Supreme Court victory for his signature health care law and more certain than ever in his legacy of health care expansion.
“As the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working,”Obama declared at the White House, hours after justices read their opinions. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
The 6-3 decision delivered Thursday doesn’t completely close the Affordable Care Act to challenges – other legal battles related to the law are winding their way through the courts.
But upholding subsidies for an estimated 6.4 million Americans nonetheless reflects a major victory for a president who frequently touts insurance expansion as a chief accomplishment.
“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,” Obama said on Thursday.
“Five years in, this is no longer about a law,” he continued. “This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation or Obamacare as a political football. This is health care in America.”
Thursday’s ruling, which affirms tax credits for 6.4 million Americans who registered for health coverage on the federally run marketplace, comes after an unusually vocal campaign by Obama and other administration officials in support of the subsidies.
The president earlier this month decried the “deeply cynical…ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress” on health care, and later declared the Supreme Court shouldn’t have taken up the case at all.
Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell described a “death spiral” for the federal marketplace should the subsidies be annulled, claiming the cost of coverage would increase exponentially, and predicting many Americans who signed up for plans on healthcare.gov would forgo health insurance altogether.
The White House insisted there was no “plan B” if the subsidies were struck down and said only Congress could pass a simple fix rendering the tax credits legal.
The grave warnings amounted to a public relations campaign in favor of the Affordable Care Act, a law so tied to the president that even the White House now calls it Obamacare.
Central to their pitch: the measures within the health law that Americans are already benefiting from – and will be difficult for Republicans to revoke.
Young Americans up to the age of 26 are able to remain on their parents’ health plans, insurance companies are disallowed from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and preventative care is covered by insurance companies.
An expansion of Medicaid – which was rejected in some states by Republican governors – has also brought millions of Americans under health coverage.
“This law is now helping tens of millions of Americans. And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better,” Obama said.
In recent weeks the president has been more open about discussing the key elements of his agenda he wants to be remembered for — including helping more Americans obtain insurance.
Asked at the beginning of June how he wanted “the world to remember you,” Obama mentioned the economic recovery, diplomatic efforts — and “the work that I’ve done to provide health insurance for people here in the United States.”
Speaking to Democratic donors last week, Obama trumpeted that “sixteen million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.”
“The uninsured rate has never been lower in America,” he declared.
The ruling on Obamacare is a high point for Obama amid a series of inflection points for his presidential legacy.
He scored a win on an ambitious trade agenda this week when the Senate voted to approve fast track authority for a major deal Obama is negotiating with Asian nations – a reversal of fortunes for the White House after Democrats blocked the trade measures from progressing earlier this month.
But the trade pact is far from complete, and lawmakers must still approve the final Trans Pacific Partnership – assuming administration negotiators are successful in striking a deal.
Executive orders that would allow for delaying the deportation of some undocumented immigrants are mired in legal challenges. It could be more than a year before they take effect, if they take effect at all.
And negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran are nearing their June 30conclusion, with major sticking points still to be sorted.