Appeals Court Decision in Halbig “Misguided”

WASHINGTON—The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) issued the following statement reacting to the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Halbig v. Burwell, which states that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) tax credits are only available to persons in state-run Marketplaces, a decision advocates strongly reject.

“The tax credits are integral to the ACA and are available to all eligible persons,” said Elizabeth Taylor, executive director of NHeLP. “They are supported by the law’s text and go directly to its central purpose—making coverage more affordable and accessible for all. Today’s ruling is misguided and, if not corrected, will cut the heart out of the ACA.” Only 14 states established their own Marketplace.

As noted in the amicus brief filed by AARP Foundation Litigation and NHeLP, the availability of tax credits is crucial to achieving the law’s mission of providing near universal health care coverage. In passing the ACA, Congress sought to advance this purpose by coupling coverage expansions with key private insurance reforms and financial assistance to encourage people to purchase coverage and to promote a diverse pool of insured persons. The premium tax credits were designed to give individuals an incentive to participate in the individual health insurance market. Limiting financial assistance only to plans offered in state-run Marketplaces, as the Court held 2-1, is directly contrary to Congress’ purpose and to the structure of the ACA. According to analysis by the Urban Institute, 7.3 million people could lose their subsidies.

“If today’s decision stands—and it should not—older adults, the chronically ill and those with low to moderate incomes would feel the brunt,” said Jane Perkins, NHeLP legal director. “Without the financial help required by the ACA, quality coverage will be out of reach. These Americans will be too poor for private coverage, but not eligible for public programs—the very situation the ACA was designed to avoid.”

Today’s ruling does not immediately affect the availability of financial assistance in the federal Marketplace. The government will likely petition the appeals court for review by the full 11 judge panel.

NHeLP is committed to full implementation of the ACA and has supported and defended the law since its passage.

 
 

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