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D.C. Appeals Court’s Blow to Obamacare could affect subsidies to Floridians

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Today the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 36 states including Florida that have not set up their own health insurance exchanges are barred from getting government subsidies to residents who signed up for low premium Obamacare policies.

Judge Thomas Griffith, writing for the majority claimed that subsidies are only meant to apply to state exchanges, citing the fact that the Affordable Care Act does not explicitly say that people who buy their health insurance on the Federal exchange should get subsidies. He rejected the argument that a Federal exchange is by definition, a state exchange.

The sole dissenter, Judge Harry T. Edwards, called this “a not so veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

This 2-1 decision in Halbig v. Burwell could mean that Floridians who enrolled on the HealthCare.gov federal website could see rate hikes as high as 80 percent.

This high number is based on an analysis done by consultants at Avalere Health who calculated the difference between the retail cost of health plans to enrollees who are not subsidized and the cost of plans to enrollees after the subsidy is subtracted.
However accurate the 80 percent figure, there is no doubt that the decision has thrown yet another wrench (after the Hobby Lobby decision) in the future of the Affordable Care act.

Several local health plan administrators contacted about the ruling said they had no idea how this would affect their organizations and were in a “wait and see” mode as they expect the Federal government to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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