WASHINGTON—Today the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), in partnership with AARP, filed an amicus brief in King v. Burwell supporting the availability of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) tax credits in all Marketplaces and urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in the case on March 4, and the outcome will determine whether coverage is available for millions of limited-income people.
“The ACA’s tax credits are part and parcel to the ACA—a view that is supported both by the text of the statute and its overarching purpose, to make coverage more affordable and accessible for all,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, NHeLP executive director. “The arguments by the challengers in King are absurd and, if accepted, will devastate the lives of millions of Americans.”
In an amicus brief authored by attorneys at AARP Foundation Litigation, the amici focus on the importance of the ACA to pre-Medicare older adults and detail how the availability of tax credits are crucial to achieving the ACA’s mission of providing near universal health care coverage. In passing the ACA, Congress sought to advance this purpose by coupling coverage expansions with key private insurance reforms and financial assistance to encourage people to purchase coverage and promote a diverse pool of insured persons. The premium tax credits were designed to give individuals an incentive to participate in the individual health insurance market. Limiting financial assistance only to plans offered in state-run Marketplaces, as the challengers in King argue, is contrary to the text and structure of the ACA and Congress’ express purpose.
“A bad outcome in King would have national repercussions and seriously threaten the ability of millions, particularly older adults, to afford coverage,” added Jane Perkins, NHeLP legal director.
Thirty-four states, with about 75 percent of the people nationwide who qualify for premium subsidies, allow the federal government to operate the Marketplace. Limiting the ACA’s tax credits to only state-run Marketplaces would cause premiums to skyrocket in those states and remove affordable coverage from the 5 million people currently eligible for financial help, and millions more expected to enroll in years to come. Older adults, aged 50-64, who do not yet qualify for Medicare would feel the harm acutely. Prior to the ACA, these groups struggled to access affordable coverage and paid up to seven times more for premiums than their younger counterparts. Their inability to afford coverage often resulted in worse health outcomes and death, financial strain and increased health care spending at the national level.
NHeLP is committed to full implementation of the ACA and has supported and defended the law since its passage, including filing a number of amicus briefs in the federal courts.
The following organizations joined the amicus brief: National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE).