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Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act Subsidies

Tax Alert: King v. Burwell

June 25, 2015


On Thursday June 25, the United States Supreme Court revealed its decision in King v. Burwell.

In the 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court held subsidies available to Exchange enrollees under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) are available regardless of whether coverage is purchased through state-based or federal Exchanges. This means that individuals who get their health insurance through an Exchange established by the federal government still are eligible for tax subsidies.

In one of the more anticipated cases of the current term, the majority looked past the ACA’s “inartful drafting,” which under its plain meaning appeared to limit subsidies to individuals enrolling in an “Exchange established by the State.”

"In this instance,” according to the Court, “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."

The Court relied on a more global analysis of the ACA, instead of viewing the specific statute at issue in isolation. In the end, the Court concluded the credits “are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid.”