More than 63,000 Mississippi health insurance clients of the federal Affordable Care Act could be hit with premiums as much as 95 percent higher if the Tuesday ruling of a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is upheld in full on an apparently certain appeal.
The District of Columbia court’s ruling that would cut off federal subsidy of health insurance coverage for about 4.5 million people, however, was countered with a conflicting judgment released only hours later by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
The appeals courts’ judges disagree on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states using the federal insurance exchange rather than state exchanges.
The Fourth Circuit upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion” under the ACA, better known as Obamacare.
The lawsuit was filed by several people, supported by conservative and libertarian organizations, in Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia, all state users of the federal exchange. They objected to being required to buy insurance, even with subsidies to help defray the cost.
Some politicians in Mississippi immediately effusively praised the District of Columbia court’s decision because those politicians despise Obamacare.
No concern was expressed in statements for those 63,000 Mississippi residents whose health insurance – which helps them and also hospitals, physicians and other providers – likely would become unaffordable.
The ruling also threatens, in the same 36 states, to gut the Obamacare rule starting next year that all employers with 50 or more full-time workers offer affordable insurance to them or face fines. The rule only kicks in if one of such an employers’ workers buys subsidized covered on HealthCare.gov.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 upheld most of the ACA, including the mandate that most people must get insurance or pay a fine.
“It’s in everyone’s interest for this issue to be resolved sooner than later,” said Jonathan Adler, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who, has been the leading theorist for the challenge.
It’s even more important for elected leaders to consider the well-being of their states’ residents who have signed up legally for ACA coverage but face potentially losing it because of unaffordability.