President Obama’s top health official told Congress Thursday she is not aware of a 100-page workup that, according to an influential Republican, lays out potential options the Health and Human Services Department may take if the Supreme Court strikes down many of Obamacare’s subsidies.
Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health panel, said a “source” within the agency told the committee about the document.
“This is a document I’m not aware of,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.
Republican lawmakers are pressing Mrs. Burwell on what, if anything, the administration plans to do if the justices agree with challengers who say the Affordable Care Act reserved premium tax credits for customers on exchanges “established by the state.”
Obamacare’s opponents interpret that to mean the exchanges set up by 16 states and the District of Columbia, and not at least 34 states that rely on the federal exchange known as HealthCare.gov.
Mrs. Burwell said Congress never intended to treat certain states differently than others, so all should enjoy the subsidies.
“We believe that the court will decide in the favor of the position we hold,” she testified.
Avalere Health, a Washington-based consultancy, said Thursday about 7.5 million Americans would see their premium contributions soar by an average of 255 percent if the high court invalidates subsidies on the federal exchange.
Many would likely drop coverage, sending Obamacare’s fragile economics into a tailspin in affected states.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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