Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell. At issue is whether or not people who chose health insurance plans through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, and not through a state-based health insurance exchange, are eligible for tax credits, which are used to defray the cost of premiums.
In order to provide a safety net and make sure Texans don’t lose their tax credits, I filed two pieces of legislation, HB 817 and HB 818, both of which would create a state-based health insurance exchange.
Yesterday, I hosted a press conference to discuss these measures. Texas Hospital Association President/CEO Ted Shaw joined me and helped remind those in attendance that the impact of this case spreads well beyond those who will lose coverage.
Shaw said, “Texas already leads the nation with 25 percent of our population lacking health insurance. Our hospitals are providing health care to these individuals, at a cost of more than $5.5 billion annually. An end to tax subsidies and private health insurance coverage for nearly one million Texans will further weaken the already strained health care safety net and increase the unreimbursed care costs shifted on to employers and property taxpayers.”
For the full press release from our press conference, click here.
In support of providing a safety net for Texans, The Dallas Morning News wrote an excellent editorial in support of the legislation I filed. I have included the full text below. I urge you to please pass it on.
Regardless of your politics, the possibility that fellow Texans and millions more Americans nationwide who bought insurance under the Affordable Care Act could return to the ranks of the uninsured is a serious matter.
Yet this is what is at stake when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in King vs. Burwell. More than 1 million Texans who now have health insurance through federally run exchanges may not be allowed to keep their coverage.
Imagine the devastating effect if the cost of your health care premiums tripled, which could happen if the federal subsidies many count on suddenly disappear. Most people eligible for subsidies have modest incomes; many would be unable to afford any coverage without financial help, adding to the ranks of the uninsured.
Texas already leads the nation in the number of uninsured residents; the state doesn’t need to toss more people into health care limbo.
However, if the Supreme Court hands down a problematic Burwell ruling, Texas lawmakers can ease the shock. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, recently introduced HB 817 as a safety net. If the court says Texans can’t receive subsidies through federally run exchanges, the bill would automatically trigger the creation of a state-run health care exchange that would allow Texans to continue to receive federal subsidies and keep their existing coverage.
The legal issue before the court is whether people who live in states like Texas that did not establish a state-run health care exchange are eligible to receive federal tax subsidies. Last spring, two federal appeals courts reached opposite conclusions. One court said the subsidies applied to Americans in all states; the other said they applied only to consumers in states that operated their own health care exchanges.
This newspaper understands some of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act — and, in fact, questioned the program’s cost as the bill originally moved through Congress. However, it is now law. Millions have based their insurance decisions on the program; a ruling would affect people of all political stripes in every House and Senate district. The well-being of those who enrolled should be protected.
Turner’s bill addresses only part of Texas’ broader health care challenge under the Affordable Care Act. Texas lawmakers also need to reform Medicaid eligibility so the state can draw extra federal dollars to cover the large percentage of uninsured low-income residents — as a number of Texas business groups have urged. Unfortunately, in a letter to President Barack Obama, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Senate Republicans on Monday reiterated their opposition to expanding Medicaid while demanding that the federal government allow Texas to make sweeping changes in the Medicaid program. This appears to be a nonstarter.
Texas must begin to solve its myriad health care challenges. Turner’s bill is a pragmatic way to keep a looming problem from becoming a nightmare. It deserves bipartisan support.
Americans who could lose federal health care subsidies in 2016 if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in King vs. Burwell:
- 13.4 million nationwide in 37 states
- 2.5 million in Florida
- 1.7 million in Texas
SOURCE: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Congressional Budget Office estimates of Marketplace enrollment
About Texans, not Obama
“Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act, regardless of what you think about President Obama, hopefully we can agree that it would not be good for Texans to have a million-plus Texans see a tax increase or lose their health insurance as a result of this.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, on a bill to create a Texas health care exchange in the event the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the Affordable Care Act