A powerful Republican senator says the administration is offering a parachute to insurers under threat by a Supreme Court ruling that could gut Obamacare this June, even as it says nothing to everyday HealthCare.gov enrollees who would lose their subsidies if the justices rule against President Obama’s overhaul.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah has asked a key Obamacare official to explain why the administration late last year agreed to let insurers pull out of contracts to participate on the federal exchange, should the justices strike down government subsidies that help millions of enrollees in 34 states afford the private policies they find on HealthCare.gov.
“While the Administration assures HealthCare.gov policyholders that ‘nothing has changed,’ it has been conveying a contradictory message to health insurance companies,” he said in a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Until this week, the administration had been mum about any contingency planning to deal with enrollees who could be affected by an adverse ruling in the case known as King v. Burwell.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell broke her silence Tuesday, telling Mr. Hatch her agency does not know of any administrative tweaks it could make to lessen the blow if the Supreme Court invalidated the subsidies, effectively leaving the issue up to the states and Congress.
Mr. Hatch said there is a disconnect between their assertions to the public and its dealings with insurance companies, which demanded “critical” changes to the terms of their exchange agreements.
“The administration accommodated insurers with this ‘critical’ change at the same time it was telling individual Americans that ‘nothing has changed,’ suggesting that the administration is both actively engaged in contingency planning and is misleading HealthCare.gov enrollees,” Mr. Hatch said in his letter.
Even as they cheer it on, GOP leaders have pledged to offer a escape route for Americans affected by the King lawsuit.
The Affordable Care Act reserved the subsidies for exchanges “established by the state,” which challengers in the case interpret to mean the exchanges set up by 16 states and the District of Columbia.
The administration counters that Congress never intended to treat states differently, and that the GOP is creating a mess and then asking the administration to clean it up.
The justices are set to hear arguments next week and rule by June.