EDITORIAL: Obamacare ruling: 2 judges, 6 words and millions at risk
|By Star Tribune (Minneapolis)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
About 4.6 million people who obtained private health insurance this year through Healthcare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace serving 36 states, received tax-credit subsidies to lower the cost of their monthly premiums. That number is expected to rise to 7.3 million over the next two years, according to a recent analysis by the
But the latest court challenge concocted by Obamacare opponents takes aim at the legality of the subsidies for those living in states relying on Healthcare.gov instead of a customized, state-built exchange -- such as
Many of those now qualifying for subsidies through the federal exchange would take a double hit, a fact often missed in news coverage. They're also currently eligible for so-called "cost-sharing" assistance to defray expenses such as copays. That assistance likely would "terminate," according to a legal briefing distributed this week to state health policy experts.
Those tempted to cheer on the latest legal challenge to the ACA ought to consider these numbers: Each of the nearly 5 million who received the subsidies this year -- those who qualify must meet income guidelines -- is someone who potentially would not be able to fill a prescription or take their child to the doctor if the tax credits simply disappear.
Now add in the estimated 8 million even poorer Americans who would have qualified for
At what point does the incredible cost of this political gamesmanship start sinking in with the law's mostly Republican opponents? Thinking that this confers some political advantage is also deluded. "There will be utter chaos throughout the country as people getting insurance subsidies have them yanked away. Think of the controversy when people weren't able to renew their policies last year. Multiply it by 20 to 30 times to get at what this would entail," said
What's even more frustrating is that there aren't broader legal principles at stake, as there were with a previous court challenge to the health law's mandate to buy health insurance. In 2012, the
The latest challenge is referred to as Halbig vs. Burwell, the court case on which the
At the heart of the issue is what amounts to sloppy copy editing deep within the 2,000-page health reform law. As an amicus curiae brief by the
This conclusion flouts a respected legal precedent that gives federal agencies wide latitude in interpreting ambiguous legislative language. It also flies in the face of common sense.
Instead of allowing this legal battle to distract from other pressing issues,
Minnesotans also ought to be grateful for state legislators' foresight in building MNsure. The reasons for doing so remain -- the opportunity for local control and the chance to build new human services efficiencies. Add to that another advantage: MNsure will insulate Minnesotans from the ongoing legal battle and ensure that the subsidies keep flowing to those here who qualify.
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