1M in FL Could Be Affected by Supreme Court Case

Mar 2, 2015

A U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this summer could quickly change how Floridians with insurance through HealthCare.gov pay for coverage.

Credit U.S. Supreme Court

Arguments being held in the case of King v. Burwell this week will decide whether low- and moderate-income Floridians and residents in 36 other states can get tax credits for plans they buy through the federal government.

The impact of the ruling could be seen within 30 to 60 days of a decision, said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

“If the court rules that those tax credits are invalid, they would probably be shut off in a month or two. People who have already received tax credits this year, those would be fine. The ruling would not be retroactive,” he said.

An estimated 7 million Americans today receive subsidies for insurance purchased on HealthCare.gov. More than 90 percent of the 1.6 million Floridians with these policies have received these subsidies.

King v. Burwell centers on a single reference to subsidies designed to help pay for monthly insurance premiums.  The health law's wording only mentions state-run marketplaces. Today, only 13 states run their own sites.

Jost has been watching the health law since before it passed in 2010 and said the Supreme Court in 2012 took a broad approach to the Affordable Care Act.

Jost, who supports the concept of the health law but has been critical of many specifics, said he expects the court to approach it the same way in King v. Burwell.

“I think that if they follow the law that they have laid down in other cases, they are not going to look at just four words, they are going to look at the entire statute,” he said. “And if they do that, they are going to see, that clearly what the statute says is that federally facilitated marketplaces can grant premium tax credits.”

Mary Shedden is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.