Chris Oaks spoke with Trey Daly, state director for Enroll America in Ohio.
Q: You are among those crying foul at the (District of Columbia) Circuit Court’s ruling this week that insurance policies purchased through the federally-run health care exchange are not eligible for tax subsidies designed to make those policies more affordable. Yet, the language of the law seems quite clear that only state-run exchanges qualify.
A: That is what the D.C. court hung their hat on. However, several other courts, including one in Virginia on the very same day, reached the exact opposite conclusion by recognizing that the clear intent was to make sure that financial assistance would be available to all Americans based on need, not how they participate in the exchange marketplace.
Q: Some have suggested the language excluding the federal exchange was a deliberate attempt to encourage the states to create their own. If that’s true, how can you now go back and claim it was an oversight in the verbiage?
A: I can’t comment on the politics of the law or speculate about what was intended, but I do think it was somewhat surprising that more states didn’t take the lead and create their own exchange.
The state-run exchanges have generally seen a higher success rate both in terms of the number of people signing up and fewer issues with enrollment than did the federal website.
Then again, I don’t believe all that has settled yet. On down the road, we may see more states open their own exchange, and there are those that are considering opting-out into the federal exchange. So it’s still very much up in the air.
Q: How do you respond to those who say this ruling speaks to the heart of the fatal flaw of ObamaCare, specifically, that it takes the simplistic approach of artificially making the cost of insurance more affordable by giving people money to pay the premiums instead of enacting real reform that would lower the cost of health care without passing the burden on to taxpayers.
A: The law does have many aspects designed to contain costs over time. The subsidies are a way to address the affordability issue right now.
Again, the politics will continue to be debated, but Americans who are uninsured really aren’t focused on long-term solutions, they’re interested in having access to quality, affordable care for their families right now.
As we saw through the first open-enrollment period, nearly 90 percent of those in Ohio who signed up for coverage did so with the help of these very incentives and tax credits.
Q: And what is your message to those in Ohio who have signed up through the federal marketplace and now may be wondering if this ruling means they may not be able to afford those policies after all?
A: I would advise people to not be too worried about all this. As mentioned, there have been conflicting decisions from different courts, and appeals will be filed. Every indication is that those tax credits will continue to be available as the legal process works itself out.
We have every reason to believe that ultimately the law will come down on the side of those who depend on that assistance to continue to have access to quality, affordable coverage under the law.
Q: Does this matter go all the way to the Supreme Court to be resolved? And if so, does that make you a little nervous given that court’s recent ruling against ObamaCare?
A: There’s a good chance that the Supreme Court will have to resolve this question. If it does, we’re confident they will maintain the availability of those tax credits to everyone.
And, again, in the meantime, nothing changes for those who are depending on them now and those who will count on them when they sign up through the next open enrollment period.
It’s also important to point out that these decisions have absolutely no impact whatsoever on those who enroll for coverage under Ohio’s expanded Medicaid program.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 419-422-4545.
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