Court ruling imperils Obamacare subsidies in Pennsylvania

By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit dealt a potentially devastating blow to Obamacare on Tuesday when it ruled that only those who enrolled via state-run exchanges qualified for federal subsidies.

Pennsylvania just happens to be one of the states without an exchange.

That means anyone in the Keystone State who signed up for Obamacare had to use the problem-plagued federal exchange rather than a state exchange. And the federal Affordable Care Act itself states that subsidies would go to those “enrolled through an Exchange established by the State.”

SUBSIDING SUBSIDIES? A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that only residents in states with their own health care exchanges qualify for Obamacare subsidies. Pennsylvania is among the states without an exchange.

Put that together and it could mean the end of for subsidies here. That would affect plenty of people, too. Of the 318,019 state residents who signed up for Obamacare by March 31, 81 percent qualified for financial assistance for their health care costs, according to the federal government.

Elizabeth Stelle, a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank in Harrisburg, said in a statement that Obama’s administration “has been violating its own health care to impose new burdens on Pennsylvania residents and a new tax on employers.”

“If the ruling is upheld, many will argue that the court is taking away tax credits, but in reality the blame lies with the Obama administration and the IRS, which moved forward with doling out taxpayer funds in violation of the Affordable Care Act,” Stelle said.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, looks destined for further litigation and could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

That seems especially possible after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., released a contradictory decision later in the day that found the subsidies were allowable.

Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, pointed out in a statement that the rulings have “no immediate impact” on the subsidies that lower the cost of health insurance. She also said she was confident the appeals court in D.C. would shift its position after a review before the entire bench.

“We are optimistic that on appeal the ruling will uphold the right of all Americans to access tax credits no matter where they live,” she said.

Staub can be reached at Andrew@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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