A drafting glitch that could strip 5 million people, including thousands in Wisconsin, who have purchased health insurance on the exchange to lose tax subsidies that drastically cut their insurance costs, could land the Affordable Care Act back before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The drafting glitch, which the LA Times details in this article, came as a result of a merger between two versions of the health care reform bill that would eventually require everyone to have health insurance. Those that could not afford it would be given a tax subsidy to offset the cost.
What many failed to predict was the resistance by most states, including Wisconsin, to set up their own health care exchanges, instead opting for residents to purchase health care on the federal exchange.
Last month, two separate rulings from federal courts left the future ability of thousands to continue receiving subsidized health care in limbo, but handing down split decisions on whether residents in states without state-run exchanges should be eligible for a subsidy.
Fourteen states established their own exchanges since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. The rest, including Wisconsin, did not. Roughly 135,000 Wisconsin residents have insurance on the exchange, with about 90 percent receiving subsidies.
Until the litigation is over, subsidies are continuing in all states.
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, an issue-based group that advocates for affordable health care, called the dilemma created by the two rulings a “ridiculous situation” that could be fixed by Congress.
Kraig said the intent of the law is clear. But strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act is preventing conservatives in Congress from fixing the bill, just as conservatives blocked a technical correction bill from fixing the error nearly five years ago.
“The (legal) case can be ended at any time by Congress,” Kraig said. “This is not proof there is a flaw in the law. This is correcting a technicality.”
Kraig added if millions of people are suddenly stripped of health care subsidies, the cost of their monthly premiums will double or triple. While no one knows if the Supreme Court will take the case, Kraig said the politics of the issue are much worse for conservatives and opponents of the Affordable Care Act, particularly if the court rules subsidies will only be available to residents in state-created exchanges.
“It’s just like Gov. Scott Walker is now taking the blame for not taking the federal money to expand BadgerCare. The same thing will happen with this,” Kraig said. “They (conservatives) will become the problem.”
Kraig said this latest round of efforts to land the Affordable Care Act back in court shows an “incredible lack of civility” by opponents and conservatives.
“They will do anything to undermine health care reform,” Kraig said. “The law passed in 2010 and Republicans are still trying to run this train off the tracks.”