What Does King V. Burwell Mean For New York Health Insurance?

Following the Supreme Court decision, I wrote the update for a previously published article in Westchester Magazine by my colleagues.

Update (6/26/15)

President Obama celebrated a big political victory on Thursday when the Supreme Court ruled six to three that the Affordable Care Act’s federal tax subsidies would not be struck down. Five years after the law’s inception, the fear that millions of Americans in 34 states would lose health insurance subsidies was finally put to rest with the court’s decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts—a Republican-appointed justice—displeased many conservatives when he ruled with the majority to uphold the law in its entirety. The case, King v. Burwell, was based on an apparently ambiguous passage of five words in the Affordable Care Act, which the plaintiffs in the case argued invalidated health insurance exchanges run by the Federal Government. Roberts did not agree.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” he wrote in the court’s opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who was particularly frustrated with the decision—he dissented from the bench—wrote, “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”

But the law’s future still isn’t totally clear, either. The New York Time’s published an article immediately after the decision titled “Obamacare Ruling May Have Just Killed State-Based Exchanges;” now that it’s been decided that subsidies can be given through federal exchanges, it’s technically possible states that have already set up their own healthcare exchange, like New York, might just decide to let the feds handle the whole thing.

“There may be a little bit of buyers’ remorse going on in some state capitals right now,” Sabrina Corlette, director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, told the Times.

Westchester Congressman Eliot L. Engel, who told Westchester Magazine that New Yorkers could count on their state-run exchange regardless of the outcome of King v. Burwell, said Friday that even New York opted to revert to a federally run exchange, if high-quality coverage was available, it would still be a win for New Yorkers.

“The bottom line for me is affordable health care for everybody. I don’t care if it’s done in state exchanges or federal exchanges. I don’t really care about the mechanism, what I care about is that affordable health care is available to everybody,” Engel said. “It is available to everybody in New York based on the New York exchange, and at some point if there’s a federal exchange where the quality of care is the same as it is now—or better—then it doesn’t bother me. We have to keep our eye on the prize, and the prize is that in New York everybody gets health coverage that’s affordable. I’ve always believed that health coverage is a right not a luxury.”

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