This article, written by Mark Wiggins, originally appeared on KVUE on June 25, 2015.
Texas leaders and interest groups have plenty to say about the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision Thursday to uphold nationwide tax subsidies that help millions afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
"Texas hospitals are certainly thankful," said John Hawkins at the Texas Hospital Association.
As the organizer's senior vice president for government relations, Hawkins says Texas stood to lose roughly $4.4 billion in federal subsidies. Of the 1.2 million Texans who purchased a health care plan on the federal exchange, about 832,000 are low-income workers who qualify for tax credits without which they likely would not be able to afford coverage.
"I think it would have put the insurance market into a tailspin because of some of the other reforms that were in place," Hawkins added, "And it certainly would have put hospitals in a bad position just driving up uncompensated care, which gets shifted onto local taxpayers and to the private market."
The law allows subsidies for those on plans bought on state exchanges, which some states such as Texas refused to create. The court ruled the wording was vague, yet clearly intended for subsidies to be available for plans bought on the federal exchange as well.
"My concern is that today's ruling merely slaps another band-aid onto the other band-aids that have already been slapped onto the Affordable Care Act," said Rob Henneke, with the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for the American Future. Henneke argues instead of striking down the law and forcing Congress back to the drawing board, the court essentially rewrote it.
"The end result will be that we won't have further action by Congress to address the real problems that we have in our health care system here in America," said Henneke.
Among the declared 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) excoriated the court in a speech on the Senate floor, "Our government was designed to be one of laws, not of men, and this transparent distortion is disgraceful. These justices are not behaving as umpires calling balls and strikes. They have joined a team, and it is a team that is hurting Americans across this country."
Sen. John Cornyn responded, "Today's decision doesn't change the fact that Obamacare has been a disaster for the millions of hardworking American families who have seen their health care costs skyrocket or lost their insurance entirely. Republicans will continue to fight tooth and nail to repeal this oppressive law and replace it with patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase access for Texans and all Americans."
"This decision means health care security for millions of Americans," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). "Like the 60 attempts to destroy this law, this latest attempt to destroy it in the courts has failed. A loss would have meant that more than 800,000 Texans who benefit from receiving these credits would have lost a tax benefit worth an average of $247 a month. With this ruling, we avoid the 'death spiral' Congress designed the law to prevent."
"The Supreme Court's ruling should serve as a wake up call to Texas leaders that it is time to finally get our heads out of the sand and work to develop a solution to provide coverage to the remaining estimated one million Texans trapped in the coverage gap due to Texas's refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility," responded state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.
"Governor Abbott has the ability to call the Legislature back to a special session to address the immediate health needs of our state," said Martinez Fischer. "I stand ready and willing to work with all members and state leaders to come up with a solution to increase access to health care for our citizens. For those who believe in the rule of law, it's time to get to work."
Another decision Thursday dealt with a case filed in Texas over the Fair Housing Act. The court ruled that under the act, policies that cause housing discrimination are illegal whether they are intended to or not.
"There's been study after study after study that says where you live matters," said Austin Tenants' Council executive director Katherine Stark, who hopes the ruling will help stop decades of segregation caused by concentrating affordable housing in predominantly poor and minority areas.
"So if we have affordable housing scattered throughout the city instead of just in one section, people can say, 'I work up there. My day care's up there. I'll get an apartment up there,'" said Stark, "And they can find something that's affordable."
"Texas stands strongly against racial discrimination, and sets policy true to the letter and spirit of the Fair Housing Act," wrote Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office defended the state in the case. "Today's decision places an unfair burden on landlords, lenders and developers, and will ironically lead them to make their decisions based upon consideration of race."
"The Administration's interpretation of federal housing law is overreaching and misguided, and I am disappointed with the Supreme Court's ruling," said Paxton. "This case, however, is far from over. The Court recognized the 'novelty' of the plaintiff's claims, and noted that the FHA does not prohibit actions taken for 'legitimate objectives.' The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs acted with the legitimate objective of revitalizing neighborhoods and providing affordable, fair housing when it distributed federal tax credits."
"This ruling recognizes the stark reality that housing discrimination, regardless of intent, persists for many Americans," responded Dennis Parker, the director the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "This decision retains the essential protections of the Fair Housing Act, meaning the law will continue to serve as an important tool in rooting out pernicious forms of racial segregation and discrimination."