Dueling court rulings handed down today put the future of a key piece of Obamacare into question, but for now, nothing will change about the way the law is implemented in Illinois.
A three judge panel in Washington D.C. ruled this morning that under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, federal subsidies to bring down the cost of insurance should only be available to residents of states that operate their own online insurance exchange. Under the decisions, Illinois and 35 other states would lose the subsidies. Illinois partnered with the feds on Getcoveredillinois.gov, but the website still relies on the federal exchange to sign patients up for coverage.
Just hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit weighed in, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia issued a diverging opinion on a similar case. That panel of judges said that the wording of the law was unclear, but the majority agreed that the law allows for the subsidies to be dispersed through the federal exchange.
In Illinois, 217,000 people obtained insurance through the exchange. More than three quarters of those qualified for a subsidy. Health officials in Illinois say that those approximately 168,000 will not lose their subsides as an immediate result of the rulings. “We are monitoring today’s appeals court decisions in which two courts have rendered differing rulings. The bottom line for now is that nothing has changed, and the subsidies created under the law to help people cover the cost of their health care remain in effect. Get Covered Illinois is focused on preparing for the enrollment period for year two that will start this fall,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said in a written statement.
President Barack Obama’s administration says it plans to ask the full panel of judges at the D.C. appeals court to consider the issue. That group is made up of seven judges appointed by Democrats and four appointed by Republicans. Two other judges, one appointed by a Democrat and one by a Republican, could sit in on the case. It is possible that the issue may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court previously upheld the law, but allowed states to opt out of a massive Medicaid expansion called for by the Affordable Care Act. Illinois lawmakers approved and Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the expansion in Illinois.
State online insurance exchanges
Source: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF State Health