06/25/2015 08:02 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2016

An Open Letter to the Supreme Court Justices on the Obamacare Ruling

An Open Letter to Justices John G. Roberts, Jr., Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor.

In my 32 years serving the people of California in Congress, I have never written to Supreme Court Justices. But your ruling in the King v. Burwell case was so momentous and so important for America's families, I felt compelled to write and share my gratitude for this decision.

The stakes in this case were enormous. If the plaintiffs had prevailed, nearly 6.4 million Americans in 34 states would have lost the tax credits they rely on to provide health insurance for themselves and their families, and faced an average $3,200 tax hike. Many would have been forced to go without health insurance.

Eliminating these tax credits would not only have undermined the entire Affordable Care Act, it would have put the health and lives of Americans at risk. As the American Hospital Association warned in its amicus brief, a ruling for the plaintiffs would have been "a disaster for millions of lower and middle-income Americans" and "the ranks of the uninsured [would] swell again, with all that portends in the way of untreated illness and overwhelming debt."

The reason we passed the Affordable Care Act was simple - so that every American could have the security of knowing their health care would be there when they needed it most. No one should ever have to go to sleep at night worried that their child won't get the treatments they need, or that an accident or illness will bankrupt their entire family.

Your opinion, which was eloquent in its simplicity, clearly recognized Congress' intent. As you wrote, "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them." I could not agree more.

When we passed this historic law back in 2010, we stated our intent clearly. We had exactly 60 members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, and each of us knew precisely what the law would do - ensure that middle-class Americans, regardless of what state they lived in, would have access to the tax credits they needed to afford health care. If governors did not want to set up their own health insurance exchange, they could rely on the federal exchange and still offer their residents the full benefit of the law.

We knew these tax credits were essential to all the other reforms in the law - such as ending discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, ensuring women are not charged more for their coverage because they are women, and guaranteeing Americans access to life-saving preventive health services like annual exams and cancer screenings.

These tax credits have now made it possible for more than 9 million men, women, and children to have health care coverage - some for the first time ever. We know this coverage is saving lives.

Take David Tedrow of Durham, North Carolina. Without the benefit of these tax credits - which helped him afford health insurance - he never would have been able to get the liver transplant he needed to save his life. He wrote recently that these tax credits were "the difference between life and death."

I want to thank you for making a decision that put the welfare of Americans like David Tedrow ahead of partisan politics. I want to thank you for taking the time to recognize Congress' true intent. And I want to thank you for ensuring that millions of Americans will be able go to sleep tonight knowing their health insurance will be there when they need it.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator