The court ruled that the subsidies were integral to the functioning of insurance markets under the ACA, and that Congress constructed the law with that in mind. The Court did not use an alternative legal argument to uphold the subsidies – saying that the law was ambiguous but the executive branch (in this case the IRS) had the right to interpret it so that subsidies are available in both state and federal exchanges. This is not a minor distinction – that latter interpretation (used by one of the lower courts) would have meant that a future administration could come in and change the subsidy policy. The 6-3 court ruling bars a future administration from doing so. (A future Congress could still change the law regarding subsidies but a future administration couldn’t just flip a switch and stop them.) Continue reading
Will fretting over King v. Burwell be remembered in the same breath as worries over Y2K?
Or will the calamity of 8 million people losing health insurance come true if the plaintiffs win their case at the U.S. Supreme Court? A ruling is expected in June.
With Alliance for Health Reform’s Marilyn Serafini acting as moderator, the Chicago chapter of AHCJ gathered on May 13 for a panel discussion on “The outlook for health insurance subsidies.” Continue reading
A key issue in King v. Burwell, the health care reform case argued before the Supreme Court in early March, is whether Congress intended to make certain subsidies available to eligible people across the country or only to those living in states that created their own health insurance exchange.
Sam Stein and colleagues at the Huffington Post filed public record requests with several key states, including some in which prominent GOP governors did not establish exchanges. The reporters also reviewed records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and more than 50,000 previously released emails from the Oklahoma governor’s office. The requests covered a period between the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and August 2011, when the IRS ruled that the subsidies should be available in all states.
How much discussion did Stein find about the risk of losing subsidies? Continue reading
The Washington, D.C., chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists had a session last week about the upcoming King v. Burwell case that will go before the Supreme Court challenging whether the Affordable Care Act subsidies can flow through the federal exchanges.
More than 30 people attended the event at New York University’s D.C. campus, including some students and faculty, and it was mentioned in Politico Pulse. Seth Borenstein, a science writer for The Associated Press and adjunct professor, helped organize and co-host the session. Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz, who leads the D.C. chapter, and Margot Sanger-Katz, a health writer with The New York Times, spoke to students after the event about how journalists have covered the Affordable Care Act.
A ruling for King would affect people in 34 states. Three other states – Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon – are using HealthCare.gov technology but are running enough of their own exchange to be a sort of hybrid. Briefs for both sides filed in the case agree that it will affect 34 states, not 37.
We’re assembling a tip sheet with more resources on the case, but here are some highlights from the event. Continue reading
Ten days before the (expected) close of open enrollment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the federal exchange’s window-shopping tool – the one that the administration encourages everyone to check before applying for Marketplace insurance – was using the wrong year’s poverty-level guidelines. Neither the Obama administration nor any health-care consultants or policy experts that reporter Don Sapatkin could find had noticed it and the site was corrected within hours after the story was posted.
In theory, almost anyone going on the site got slightly incorrect information for 35 days. Most seriously affected, however, were people just above the poverty line in states that have not expanded Medicaid. When they put their information into the tool, it responded: “Not eligible for help paying for coverage.” Many of them may have given up right there and not submitted the actual applications (which were using the correct poverty stats and were assessed correctly). It’s impossible to tell from the notification letter whether errors were made.
You have all probably gotten some emails about this website or that app that can give costs of various health plans in the new insurance exchanges. I’ve seen some that list plans county by county. People may be tempted by these easy tools because, on the surface, they look like a way around that pesky HealthCare.gov or some of the balkier state exchanges.
But there’s a problem. (There’s also a solution that I’ll get to, but keep reading.) The information on most of these plans is very general. And it’s “sticker” prices. Some don’t take into account the subsidies or other particular family circumstances. And that sticker price may produce enough “sticker shock” that people are scared off and don’t find out what they would actually pay, particularly if they are eligible for subsidies. Some of the calculators don’t include age, either, and that does affect what people will pay.
Nor do the calculators always produce the same estimated cost. I tried two different ones using the same information about a family I had spoken to in California. I got very different results – thousands of dollars different. Neither was close to what the family found when they did get on the California exchange. (In this case, the family’s costs did go up.)
The Arizona Republic did a consumer-focused story about the calculators in which they urged consumers to get on the real sites (which are – slowly – improving) and find out what the precise costs are for their unique family circumstances. Continue reading