Today's ACA Court Ruling

Today from Center for American Progress regarding the Halbig v. Burwell ruling.

Today, two conservative judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that individuals residing in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces are ineligible to receive insurance premium tax credits because a clause in the Affordable Care Act states those premium tax credits are only available “through an exchange established by the state.” Indeed, the law allows for states to set up their own exchanges, but if they choose not to, the federal government is charged with doing so on behalf of the state.

What does this mean for Wisconsin?

If this Halbig v. Burwell decision were to move forward (and who knows, a different court also today decided an opposite ruling) it would be disastrous news for the over 130,000 Wisconsinites who have responsibly and successfully enrolled in private health ensure coverage with the health of the tax credit. It would mean that these citizens who rely on tax credits to guarantee them affordable coverage would be taken away.

In simple terms, this is what's at stake. The Affordable Care Act provides tax credits at Healthcare.gov for those signing up for coverage up to a certain income. The credits are based on your income and the cost of plans in your area to make sure that everyone has access to some sort of affordable coverage option. But those tax credits may be in jeopardy for consumers living in 34 states who rely on Healthcare.gov.

This decision would be terrible news for Wisconsin families, but only because Wisconsin refused to create a state marketplace like Minnesota. Wisconsin could change its mind and create a state-based online health insurance marketplace in the future. We've argued for a state marketplace from the beginning. If our state did create it's own online market we could guarantee greater security and control for Wisconsin consumers, irrespective of whatever happened in this federal lawsuit.

The big question now is, if the worst were to happen and the courts forbid tax credits for federally based marketplaces, would Governor Walker push to create a state marketplace to protect consumers? Or would he allow Wisconsin residents to once again struggle to access affordable coverage?

The recipe for affordable coverage is easy. Ensure everyone has access to coverage (by, for example, these tax credits and by accepting federal funds for BadgerCare), ensure the insurance industry is properly regulated, ensure health costs are transparent so market pressure and large purchasing power can leverage better prices. Without a properly functioning health marketplace we could return to a world where insurance companies can profit from pre-existing condition discrimination and gender discrimination. And that is a world I do not want to return to.

- Kevin.kane@citizenactionwi.org

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