King v. Burwell Update — Lawmakers await King v. Burwell ruling

King v. Burwell Update — The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was subjected to a third round of scrutiny when the Supreme Court decided to hear King v. Burwell, whose focus is the validity of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Lawmakers are anxious whether the court will side with the plaintiffs and invalidate the federal exchange or uphold one of ACA’s primary means of increasing health care access and affordability by siding with the federal government when it delivers its final word by the end of the month.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell says it will be up to governors and Congress to respond if SCOTUS strikes down the federal health care exchange. Image of Congressional assembly during President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address courtesy of Creative Commons and Flickr user NASA HQ Photo

Speaking at the Catholic Health Association Assembly on Tuesday, President Obama said his signature health care law “is now a part of the fabric of how we care for one another,” according to the New York Times. “It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people.”

Obama’s remarks were interpreted by many to be directed to the court’s nine justices as they near a ruling that would impact millions of people in the 37 states that use the federal exchange. They were dismissed by Republican leaders, who retorted that the president was “divorced from reality” as they argue ACA has produced more negative effects than positive. The New York Times also notes ACA and health care will be a major issue during the 2016 presidential election.

Governors and Congress will need to be the first responders if the court invalidates the federal exchange, Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell said Wednesday according to Kaiser Health News. She told the House Ways and Means Committee as the government would not be able to keep the federal exchange online or even available in a different form.

Republicans grilled Burwell over what legislation the GOP-controlled House and Senate could put together that would survive the president’s veto power. According to Kaiser, Burwell said the president will not accept any measure that calls for a repeal to ACA as part of a strategy to mitigate consumer losses if the court rules in favor of the plaintiff. Sen. Ron Johnson, R–Wis., has drafted a bill that would make federal subsidies available until August 2017, but do away with the individual mandate and other parts of ACA that have been contested by its opponents.

Kaiser has reported that Pennsylvania and Delaware are the only states that have already begun to develop alternative means of delivering federal subsidies to eligible individuals in the event the Supreme Court strikes down the federal exchange.

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