“The last round of oral argument in the most serious legal challenge to Obamacare’s insurance coverage subsidies ended over three months ago. Now the courthouse watch for a final ruling in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has neared a fever pitch.
Diehard defenders of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are worried that a three-judge panel is about to overturn an Internal Revenue Service rule issued in May 2012 that authorized distribution of insurance premium assistance tax credits in health exchanges administered by the federal government. By the end of a March 25 hearing on motions for summary judgment in Halbig v. Burwell, it appeared that two of the judges (a majority) were leaning toward agreeing with a group of private individuals and employers (who were appealing a federal district court ruling against them) that only an exchange “established by a state” is eligible for federal tax credits under the ACA.”
“Supporters of ObamaCare are nervously awaiting a decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals that could have even more dramatic consequences for the law’s ability to function than the Supreme Court’s religious liberty decisions issued last week.
Judge Thomas B. Griffith presided in March over arguments in one of the four cases – Halbig v. Burwell – challenging the Obama administration’s decision that subsidies for health insurance can flow through federal as well as state exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act says that health insurance subsidies are available only “through an exchange Established by the State.” The IRS, however, interpreted the statute to mean that the subsidies also could be distributed in the now 36 states where the federal government is operating exchanges.
During oral arguments, Judge A. Raymond Randolph indicated he felt the statute was quite clear in repeating “seven times” in that section that the subsidies are available only if the state sets up its own exchange.”
“President Obama’s healthcare law could be dealt a severe blow this week if a U.S. appeals court rules that some low- and middle-income residents no longer qualify to receive promised government subsidies to pay for their health insurance.
The case revolves around a legal glitch in the wording of the Affordable Care Act, which as written says that such subsidies may be paid only if the insurance is purchased through an “exchange established by the state.”
That would seem to leave out the 36 states in which the exchanges are operated by the federal government.
A ruling could come as early as Tuesday.
The administration has argued that Congress intended to offer the subsidies nationwide to low-and middle-income people who bought insurance through an exchange, without making a distinction.”
“Planned Parenthood unveiled a text helpline Monday for women who have lost or will lose contraception coverage in their healthcare plans after last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling.
The pro-abortion rights group says women who have lost birth control coverage or have questions about their healthcare can text the helpline to learn about their options.
The Supreme Court ruled last week some employers could deny workers access to free contraception coverage under their health insurance plans if it would infringe on the employer’s religious beliefs.
The group says women can text “birth control” to 69866 to report an employer’s refusal to pay for coverage. Those who use the text service get an email or phone follow-up from Planned Parenthood explaining what options the worker has and help on how to get free birth control.”
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that Democrats will take up legislation in the “coming weeks” to address last month’s Supreme Court decision that allowed some employers with religious objections to opt out of Obamacare’s contraception mandate.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have overwhelmingly criticized the high court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and are working to craft a response that would restore the coverage, though no specifics have yet been outlined.”
“Robert Gibbs’ prediction that Obamacare’s employer mandate would — and perhaps should — be jettisoned shocked Democrats back in April.
By July, the former aide and longtime confidant of President Barack Obama had a lot more company. More and more liberal activists and policy experts who help shape Democratic thinking on health care have concluded that penalizing businesses if they don’t offer health insurance is an unnecessary element of the Affordable Care Act that may do more harm than good. Among them are experts at the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund and prominent academics like legal scholar Tim Jost.
The employer mandate, Jost wrote in a Health Affairs post in June, “cries out for repair.” Repealing it “might not be such a bad idea,” if it’s replaced with something better for workers and busi
“WASHINGTON — More than half of privately insured women are getting free birth control under President Barack Obama’s health law, a major coverage shift that’s likely to advance.
This week the Supreme Court allowed some employers with religious scruples to opt out, but most companies appear to be going in the opposite direction.
Recent data from the IMS Institute document a sharp change during 2013. The share of privately insured women who got their birth control pills without a copayment jumped to 56 percent, from 14 percent in 2012. The law’s requirement that most health plans cover birth control as prevention, at no additional cost to women, took full effect in 2013.”
“WASHINGTON — How much distance from an immoral act is enough?
That’s the difficult question behind the next legal dispute over religion, birth control and the health law that is likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court.
The issue in more than four dozen lawsuits from faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals that oppose some or all contraception as immoral is how far the Obama administration must go to accommodate them.
The justices on June 30 relieved businesses with religious objections of their obligation to pay for women’s contraceptives among a range of preventive services the new law calls for in their health plans.
Religious-oriented nonprofit groups already could opt out of covering the contraceptives. But the organizations say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because, though they are not on the hook financially, they remain complicit in the provision of government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans”
“The Supreme Court’s opinion Monday holding that some for-profit firms do not have to provide women the contraceptive coverage required under the Affordable Care Act if they have religious objections addressed only half of the ongoing legal battle over the birth control mandate.
But those on both sides of the issue think the court’s majority may have telegraphed which way it could rule when one of those other cases reaches the justices.
Depending on whose count you use, there are more than 50 other lawsuits still working their way toward the high court. They were filed by nonprofit groups, mostly religious educational and health organizations like universities and hospitals.”
“The Supreme Court struck a second blow against the health-care law Monday with its decision to narrow its contraception mandate, an aspect of the federal program that was not central to its existence but was deeply cherished among liberals and many women’s groups.
Two years ago, the court, while upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also gutted the law’s mandatory Medicaid expansion, severely limiting the law’s reach. By contrast, the effect of Monday’s decision is peripheral. The contraception provision was not part of the main law but was laid out in regulatory language issued by the Obama administration. Millions of women who receive birth control at no cost through their company health plans are likely to keep it.
Still, women who work for closely held, for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to contraceptives may feel an impact. The ruling also is a symbolic setback for a law that has survived a series of legal and political challenges since its enactment four years ago but today stands not entirely whole.”