Delaware officials pleased with court’s support of Obamacare

NEW CASTLE — Delaware officials welcomed Thursday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding federal tax subsidies for people enrolled in government-operated health insurance marketplaces.

“For the more than 19,000 Delawareans who qualify, the federal subsidies are critical in helping to make health insurance more affordable,” Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, said in a press release issued by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Thursday.

The justices ruled in a 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell that the government subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The law’s opponents had argued that the majority of people who get help paying for their insurance premiums are ineligible for their federal tax credits.

Rita Landgraf

Rita Landgraf

That is because about three dozen states did not establish their own health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, and instead rely on the federal healthcare.gov to help people find coverage if they don’t get insurance through their jobs or the government.

In the challengers’ view, the phrase “established by the state” demonstrated that subsidies were to be available only to people in states that set up their own exchanges.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said she is grateful that the 19,128 Delawareans who qualify for subsidies on Delaware’s marketplace will continue to receive monthly tax credits that average $265.

While the provision of tax credits will not change, Delaware officials said they would continue to do their due diligence in evaluating Delaware’s marketplace.

“The subsidies can be the difference between being insured or uninsured,” Secretary Landgraf said. “Protecting those subsidies has been and will continue to be one of our highest priorities.”

The purpose of the federal subsidies is to keep enough people in the pool of insured to avoid triggering a so-called death spiral of declining enrollment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and premium increases by insurers.

Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million people were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.

Delaware is a state-federal partnership state, which means it is responsible for management and certification of the private insurance plans sold on the marketplace, along with assisting Delawareans in understanding their options during enrollment. To provide year-round information about the marketplace, Officials created www.ChooseHealthDE.com and under the state-federal partnership model, Delaware outsourced the information technology to the federal government through www.HealthCare.gov.

Because federal start-up funds ended after this year’s second year of enrollment, Delaware officials also are evaluating the long-term operations of the state’s marketplace.

Officials are exploring the possibility of operating the marketplace, but would assess insurers a fee to sell plans on it.
The state would be required to pay a fee to the federal government to use HealthCare.gov and the Federal Call Center to facilitate enrollment each year.

On June 1, Delaware applied for non-binding, conditional approval of a such a supported state-based marketplace and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell granted conditional approval June 15.
A final decision on any changes to Delaware’s marketplace will be made later this summer.

Nationwide, Delaware had one of the highest increases in enrollment between 2014 and 2015, with 25,036 Delawareans enrolling in 2015, up 74 percent over the 2014 enrollment of 14,397.

Enrollment for 2016 will begin Nov. 1 and run through Jan. 31, 2016. The penalties for not having insurance in 2016 will increase to $695 per adult ($347.50 for each child younger than 18), or 2.5 percent of annual household income, whichever is higher.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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