DC Circuit Court Ruling Threatens Progress Made in Providing Healthcare to Millions of Americans

The following is a statement from National Minority AIDS Council Director of Outreach and Public Affairs Kyle Murphy

Washington, DC – “The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is deeply troubled by yesterday’s District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeal decision in Halbig v. Burwell that threatens to undermine the progress made over the last year in expanding health care coverage to more than 24 million Americans through the Health Insurance Marketplaces and Medicaid expansion. In the majority’s opinion, two Republican-appointed judges concluded that the Affordable Care Act did not include a mechanism for providing premium subsidies to individuals purchasing plans in the federally facilitated marketplaces, only in those run by states. Since 36 states either refused to develop their own marketplaces or opted to allow the federal government to manage them, the ruling could result in the elimination of subsidies for more than half of all those who purchased plans through the marketplaces

“As the dissent on the three-judge panel wrote, any objective observer could only conclude that the intent of Congress was to provide subsidies to all eligible individuals purchasing private insurance through the marketplaces, both state and federal, as an essential strategy to ensuring the feasibility of the individual mandate. As 86 percent of the almost 5.5 million individuals utilizing the federal facilitated marketplaces received premium subsidies to help pay for their plans, the majority’s cynical interpretation of the law’s wording could result in an immediate increase in the cost of plans for approximately 4.7 million Americans, undermining the entire law and leaving its future in serious peril.

“NMAC supports the Obama administration in its efforts to defend these subsidies by appealing for an en banc review of yesterday’s decision. Our nation has spent more than four years, debating, legislating and litigating the ACA but it remains the law of the land. It is time for conservatives to stop the war on this law, that has left a wake of collateral damage among its constituents, and instead focus on improving it through the traditional legislative process. The administration and Congressional Democrats have repeatedly expressed their willingness to work with Republicans to tweak the law in order to address legitimate concerns about specific provisions. But attempting to advance a rigid repeal ideology on the backs of America’s most vulnerable citizens is not only unconscionable; it will undoubtedly prove bad politics as the benefits of Obamacare become more tangible in the lives of voters.

“In a similar challenge to subsidies provided through the federal marketplaces, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the DC Circuit and sided with the administration, ruling that where the wording of the law is vague, deference should be given to Congress and relevant agency interpretations of its meaning. We are hopeful that the full Court will agree and heed the Obama administration’s appeal to overturn the DC panel’s ruling yesterday. We also want to make clear that yesterday’s decision will not immediately impact the availability of subsidies for those with plans purchased in the federal marketplaces. Our previous health care delivery system was utterly broken, leaving millions of Americans either without care or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. While not perfect, the ACA is the most significant attempt to address the problems that have plagued this system for decades. It is time to put people ahead of politics and accept that the ACA is not only here, it is working. It’s time to end this four-year war and get back to the business of governing.”

Contact: Kyle Murphy, (202) 803-8027 / kmurphy@nmac.org