- A federal appeals court granted House Republicans’ request to delay the next stage of their lawsuit to eliminate subsidies for poor people covered by ACA exchange health plans until Feb. 21, Reuters reports.
- The delay — granted by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit — will allow House v. Burwell to proceed under the Trump administration, which is aligned with the House GOP’s aim to dismantle Obamacare.
- Both sides must submit plans on how they want the case to proceed by the Feb. 21 deadline.
GOP lawmakers filed suit against the Obama administration in 2014, alleging the government is subsidizing coverage for low-income Americans with money that Congress didn’t appropriate for that purpose. A federal judge ruled for the GOP in May, and the White House appealed.
Under the ACA, insurers that participate in the marketplace exchanges must cap costs to people earning between the federal poverty level and 250% of that amount. To offset the burden on insurers, the government pays plans a direct subsidy for those customers.
If Republicans win the case, insurers would still have to give low-income members a price break, but they wouldn’t be repaid for their expenses, The Huffington Post notes, adding most ACA consumers (about 7 million people) qualified for federal subsidies this year.
But eliminating the subsidies would affect more than just low-income plan members, who could lose coverage. Insurers would likely pull out of the exchanges altogether rather than lose money on those enrollees — eliminating coverage for other beneficiaries as well.
In their Nov. 21 motion for a delay, House Republicans said there was “at least a significant possibility of a meaningful change in policy in the new administration that could either obviate the need for resolution of this appeal or affect the nature and scope of the issues presented for review.”
For now, the cost-sharing payments are continuing, but Trump could end them once he takes office. The Obama administration disagrees that the payments are unlawful and disputes lawmakers’ standing to sue a federal department, according to an earlier report by The Huffington Post.