Like everyone else, we're hanging out on the D.C. Circuit Court website clicking refresh this week, waiting for a decision on Halbig. If you haven't been keeping up, this is a big deal that could put a potentially fatal hole in O'care coverage:
The plaintiff claims that the IRS has been breaking the law by offering subsidies to individuals buying plans through the federal exchanges. The suit is based on a semantic argument that claims the language of the ACA restricts subsidies to state-run exchanges. There are only 14 of these, compared to 36 states using healthcare.gov, so if the court rules in favor of Halbig, this could effectively hamstring the law.
Currently, approximately 5 million people are using the subsidies, and 10 million are eligible for them. If this reaches the Supreme Court and is decided in favor of the plaintiffs, these folks may find insurance too expensive to purchase without the subsidies—possibly driving up premiums for everyone else and increasing uncompensated care. This is being painted alternately in the media as a ticking bomb at the heart of Obamacare and wishful thinking on the part of Republicans.
Stay tuned. If we get a ruling this week, it will likely be on Tuesday or Friday, per the D.C. Circuit's habit. Check back with Healthcare Dive throughout the day for the latest updates.
Meanwhile, this week on Healthcare Dive...
We take a look at the most expensive cities in America for primary care and the highest-grossing for-profit hospitals. We'll also be digging into the smallpox incident at NIH (that followed an anthrax scare in June at CDC). What do these recent high-profile cases mean for hospital labs, which must handle human blood and bodily fluids and other bio-hazards on a daily basis?
Want to know more?
- Barnini Chakraborty gives a nice history of the Halbig v. Sebelius suit on Foxnews.com
- Modern Healthcare and Forbes contributor Michael Cannon seriously went at each other about it in late June
- Timothy Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee's law school, thinks the suit is basically bunk, and he says so in the Washington Post