Supreme Court Delays Deciding Availabilities of ACA Subsidies For Coverage Purchased On Federal Exchange

The Supreme Court apparently still has not decided whether it will hear the appeal filed by plaintiffs in King v. Burwell that challenges the legality of the Obama Administration’s plan to pay Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium subsidies to consumers living in those states that have declined to establish their own state exchanges under ACA who buy health care coverage from the Federal health care exchange.  Despite discussing whether to hear the appeal last week, the Justices did not include King v. Burwell on the list of appeals scheduled for hearing published by the Supreme Court today.  Instead, the Justices put off deciding whether to hear the appeal for now by relisting it.

Plaintiffs in King v. Burwell are asking the Supreme Court to set aside the July, 2014 ruling by the 4th Circuit ruling that ACA allows the Administration to pay ACA subsidies to individuals enrolling in health care coverage through either a state exchange or the Federal exchange.  While the Obama Administration argues ACA allows payment of premium subsidies regardless of whether the coverage comes through a state exchange or a federal exchange, the King v. Burwell plaintiffs argue that language in the ACA law that provides for subsidies for Americans who enroll “through an Exchange established by the State” prohibits payment of the subsidies for coverage purchased via the federal exchange.  Since ACA relies heavily on the payment of subsidies to help make health care coverage affordable for millions of Americans earning less than 400 percent of poverty level and many states have not established their own exchanges, a Supreme Court decision in favor of the plaintiff/appellants would deal a devastating blow to ACA’s goal of making its mandated coverage affordable to Americans living in States without their own State exchanges.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hold off its agreement to decide the King v. Burwell appeal does not mean that the Justices won’t agree to decide the appeal at a later time.  Many commentators believe the Supreme Court delayed accepting the appeal now because there is not currently any appellate court decision that conflicts with its holding since the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Halbig v. Burwell ruling that ACA does not authorize subsidy payments for consumers from states without their own exchanges that buy coverage through the federal exchange previously issued by a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will not rehear and decide Halbig en banc.  Oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court in Halbig now are scheduled December 17, 2014.  If the Court of Appeals in Halbig or another Appeals Court reaches a conflicting decision to the 4th Circuit decision in King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court likely will accept and schedule for hearing the King v. Burwell appeal.  Pending these decisions, that delay leaves a cloud of uncertainty for Americans, their employers and others about whether subsidies will be available to help individuals earning less than 400% of the poverty level living in States that don’t have a State exchange to pay premiums for health care coverage bought through the Federal exchange.

About Author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

If you need help evaluating or monitoring the implications of these developments or reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration.

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have been published by the HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

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If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping employers and other management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit  and management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions.  The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters.Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see hereor contact Ms. Stamer directly.

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