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‘Good News’ or a ‘Puzzling’ Decision?’ Missouri Officials React to ACA Ruling

Scott Harvey/KSMU

The Affordable Care Act will remain functionally the same, following Thursday’s Supreme Court 6-3 ruling.

This means that the approximately 198,000 Missourians who receive insurance discounts from the government will continue to receive these funds.

Thursday’s decision came on the heels of a debate about six words in one section of the Act. The words say that people who cannot afford health insurance can receive subsidies by “an exchange established by the state.”

Opponents said these words mean that insurance discounts through states like Missouri, whose citizens buy health insurance via the federal government’s online marketplace, are not mandated under the Act. The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday, however, upheld that those six words refer to any exchange, and said the Affordable Care Act will remain functionally the same.

Missouri officials are speaking out about the Act’s widespread impact in the state. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon called it good news for those currently receiving health coverage through the federal exchange. But says even more could benefit from the law, and again reiterated his stance on Medicaid expansion.

“There are no more excuses for continuing to send out tax dollars to other states and denying 300,000 working Missourians the opportunity to access affordable health care coverage through Medicaid expansion,” says Nixon.

Nixon says expanding Medicaid will help Missouri “finally bring tax dollars home.”

Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat running for governor in 2016, agrees. He says that for too long, those with insurance have had to pay more to offset the cost of care for those without insurance.

He considers today’s ruling a “positive step forward,” saying that the Act has provided health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Missourians, and could offer more benefits to the state’s economy. He estimates that by expanding Medicaid it could create thousands of jobs and result in billions in labor income.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt, of Missouri, said in a statement that he considers the decision a step backward.

“For more than five years, I’ve heard from countless Missourians who are facing higher costs and fewer choices due to the president’s health care takeover,” says Blunt.

He says he is disappointed that the Supreme Court “didn’t accept what the law actually said,” and says the government has been inconsistent across the board.

“First, the president promised people if they liked their health care, they could keep it. He insisted that not having coverage would result in a penalty, not a tax, and he promised affordable health care to millions of Americans who now find they cannot afford it.”

Blunt says he will continue in his fight to replace the Affordable Care Act with a patient-centered system, “that lowers costs, increases choices, and provides greater access to quality care.”

Republican Representative Billy Long of Missouri's 7th District also says he will join his colleagues in the fight against President Obama’s healthcare plan. He calls the decision “puzzling,” and says the ruling is a generous interpretation of what the text of the Affordable Care Act actually says.

“I see this as a failure in checks and balances and as an instance of the court legislating from the bench,” says Long.

Other officials say they just hope the decision ends all of the controversy.

Crystal Brigman Mahaney, deputy director of Missouri Health Care for All, accuses opponents of the law of using “frivolous, partisan lawsuits” to prevent people from benefiting from the law.

“With five years since the passage of the law, and yet another Court ruling upholding it, we hope we have seen an end to this cynical tactic,” says Mahaney.

Three years ago, a divided Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional by a 5-4 vote.

Nationally, Thursday’s decision will affect at least 8.7 million people who currently receive government subsidies.

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