Obamacare’s big day in court means little for CT

Two federal courts issued conflicting rulings on the health law known as Obamacare Tuesday, but their decisions aren’t expected to directly affect Connecticut residents.

That’s because the cases address whether it’s legal for the federal government to help pay the insurance premiums of people who buy their insurance through federally run marketplaces known as exchanges.

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, is run by the state, not the federal government. That means the legality of federal subsidies provided to Access Health customers is not in question.

Even so, the cases are likely to generate more uncertainty about the health law and renew debate about its future.

Anticipating questions and confusion, Access Health officials developed scripts for representatives in the exchange’s call center to use, in case customers call with questions about the rulings.

Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan also sees another potential impact for the state’s exchange.

Connecticut is one of 16 states that, along with Washington D.C., run their own exchanges. The rest rely fully or in part on the federal government for their exchanges.

Access Health has been offering its exchange system to other states, and Counihan believes that if the decision that prohibits the use of subsidies in federal exchanges stands, the demand for Connecticut’s system could increase.

“It may increase some of the interest of states to look at ways to offer a state exchange but outsource a lot of the functionality,” Counihan said. “I think it could potentially create some new markets.”

In one of the rulings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit determined that the health law does not permit the federal government to provide tax credits to people who buy their coverage through exchanges run by the federal government. That case is known as Halbig v. Burwell.

The second ruling, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia in the case King v. Burwell, took the position that the federal government can provide tax credits through federally run exchanges.

Critics of the health law described the D.C. court’s ruling as a rebuke to the Obama administration, while the White House brushed it off as a failed attempt to harm the law.

For more on the rulings and potential impact on states with federal exchanges, read this from Kaiser Health News.

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