A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Premiums/Costs"

Halbig Decision Puts Obamacare Back on the Front Burner and Will Give Republicans a Huge Political Headache

Bob Laszewski, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review
Thu, 2014-07-24
"Today's 2-1 decision by the DC Court of Appeals striking down federal premium subsidies, in at least the 27 states that opted for the feds to run their Obamacare insurance exchanges, has the potential to strike a devastating blow to the new health law. The law says that individuals can get subsidies to buy health insurance in the states that set up insurance exchanges. That appears to exclude the states that do not set up exchanges––at least the 27 states that completely opted out of Obamacare.

Implementing Health Reform: Appellate Decisions Split On Tax Credits In ACA Federal Exchange

Timothy Jost, Washington and Lee University
Thu, 2014-07-24
"July 22, 2014 was arguably the most important day in the history of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act since the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the National Federation of Independent Business case in June of 2012. As no doubt most readers of this blog know by now, shortly after 10 a.m. the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed down its decision in Halbig v. Burwell. Two judges ruled over a strong dissent that an Internal Revenue Service rule allowing federally facilitated exchanges to issue premium tax credits to low and moderate income Americans is invalid. Approximately two hours later the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, unanimously upheld the IRS rule in King v. Burwell. Combined, the cases contain five judicial opinions, three in the Halbig case and two in King. Four of the six judges voted to uphold the rule, two to strike it down."

Business Groups, Consumer Advocates Draw Lines In The Sand About Essential Benefits

Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-07-23
"The essential health benefits (EHBs) countdown is on for 2016. That’s when this provision of the Affordable Care Act, which sets out 10 specific health services that must be covered by plans sold on the exchanges, will likely be reviewed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Business interests and consumer advocates are already making their positions clear – the former pushing for greater consciousness of premium costs and the latter looking to safeguard consumers’ coverage. During a July 21 Capitol Hill briefing, members of the Affordable Health Benefits Coalition, a business interest group including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, said they would push to reshape essential benefits, arguing that current regulations have led to unaffordable hikes in insurance premiums. Current policy requires plans cover emergency services, pre- and post-natal care, hospital and doctors’ services, and prescription drugs, among other things.

Confused about the health care rulings?

Tony Pugh, McClatchey News Service
Wed, 2014-07-23
"WASHINGTON -- Contrary rulings Tuesday on a key element of the Affordable Care Act by two separate federal appeals courts raise a variety of questions. Q: What happened? A: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided 2-1 that tax subsidies available to help people pay for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act can only be used in the 14 states and in D.C., which run their own insurance exchanges without any help from the federal government. But in a unanimous decision on a similar case a short time later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled just the opposite. Q: Who’s eligible for the tax subsidies? A: Individuals and families who earn between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For those who enrolled this year, it includes individuals earning $11,490 to $45,960, and a family of four earning from $23,550 to $94,200. Q: Does the D.C.

Here’s What Obamacare’s Authors said They Actually Meant

Emily Badger, Washington Post
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The two contradictory appeals court decisions that cast the future of Obamacare into uncertainty Tuesday morning largely center on a question of intent: When the Affordable Care Act was conceived and drafted, did its creators mean to withhold health care subsidies from people living in states that refused to set up their own exchanges?. This latest legal challenge focuses on four words in the mammoth law authorizing tax credits for individuals who buy insurance through exchanges "established by the States." Thiry-six states declined to set up their own exchanges — far more than the law's backers anticipated — and in those states, consumers have been shopping for health care on exchanges run instead by the federal government. Now the D.C.

Appeals Courts Split On Legality Of Subsidies For Affordable Care Act

Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News
Tue, 2014-07-22
"Two U.S. Appeals Courts Tuesday reached opposite conclusions about the legality of subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, a key part of the law that brings down the cost of coverage for millions of Americans. In Washington, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. That 2-1 ruling in Halbig v. Burwell could put at risk the millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where these online insurance marketplaces are run by the federal government. Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion, said they concluded "that the ACA unambiguously restricts" the subsidies to "Exchanges 'established by the state.' " But within hours, a unanimous three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., ruled exactly the other way in King v.

No, the Halbig case isn't going to destroy Obamacare

Ezra Klein, Vox
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The Halbig case could destroy Obamacare . But it won't. The Supreme Court simply isn't going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar. As Adrianna McIntyre explains, the Halbig case holds that Obamacare's subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs (or partly runs) the exchange. The plaintiffs rely on an unclearly worded sentence in the law to argue that Congress never intended to provide subsidies in federally-run exchanges and so the subsidies that are currently being provided in those 36 states are illegal and need to stop immediately. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can't afford it This is plainly ridiculous. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can't afford it.

After Health Law Rulings, Here Are Possible Next Steps

"Margot Sanger-Katz, NY Times
Tue, 2014-07-22
"We now have two federal appeals courts that have issued conflicting rulings on a major provision of the Affordable Care Act. Those decisions are not the final word on whether residents of some states will be able to continue receiving financial assistance to buy health insurance. Here are some possible next steps:"

Court Upholds the Rule of Law

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the rule of law in its decision that the health law does not allow tax subsidies to be distributed through the federal government’s health insurance exchange. The Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service issued regulations in 2012 authorizing the flow of funds after two-thirds of the states opted not to create their own exchanges, thereby defaulting to the federal exchange. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that the law plainly states that tax credits to subsidize health insurance are to be available only through an “Exchange established by the State.” Shortly after the DC Circuit decision was announced, the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a separate case that the law’s language does allow the subsidies to be distributed through the federal exchanges. This sets up a very likely Supreme Court challenge."

Obamacare: Anger over narrow networks

Brett Norman, Politico
Tue, 2014-07-22
"Anger over limited choice of doctors and hospitals in Obamacare plans is prompting some states to require broader networks — and boiling up as yet another election year headache for the health law. Americans for Prosperity is hitting on these “narrow networks” against Democrats such as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, whose GOP opponent Scott Brown has made the health law a centerpiece of his campaign to unseat her. And Republicans have highlighted access challenges as another broken promise from a president who assured Americans they could keep their doctor. It’s not just a political problem. It’s a policy conundrum. Narrow networks help contain health care costs. If state or federal regulators — or politicians — force insurers to expand the range of providers, premiums could spike. And that could create a whole new wave of political and affordability problems that can shape perceptions of Obamacare."

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