SHOTS: Health News from NPR, June 08, 2015
by Julie Rovner, Mary Agnes Carey
By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of the federal tax subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don't get coverage through an employer. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for people in about three dozen states using HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange website.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the case.
1. What is this case about?
The case challenges the federal government's ability to provide subsidies to individuals who buy health insurance on the federal marketplace, sometimes called an exchange. Those subsidies are provided to lower- and middle-income customers since the health law mandates that most people have insurance. At issue is a line in the law stipulating that subsidies are available to those who sign up for coverage "through an exchange established by the state." In the heated politics following the health law's passage, a majority of states opted not to set up their own exchanges and instead rely on the federal government.
In regulations issued in 2012, the Internal Revenue Service said the subsidies would be available to those enrolling through both the state and the federal health insurance exchanges. Those challenging the law insist that Congress intended to limit the subsidies to state exchanges, but the Obama administration says the legislative history and other references in the law show that all exchanges are covered. Many lawmakers and staff members involved in the debate agree.