Roma Patel, Note and Comment Editor
The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby took the health law spotlight this summer. As the Court’s opinion was dissected every which way in the weeks following its release, something else was brewing at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Halbig v. Burwell.
On its face, the Halbig case challenges the federal tax credits, which are available to qualified individuals, enrolled in the health insurance exchange programs. The provision, established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, references the payment of credits to individuals who enroll through an Exchange established by the state. The legal challenge claims these credits are not available to the 36 states that chose to let the federal government manage their exchanges.
With millions of Americans relying on these tax credits in order to afford health insurance under the mandate, the case’s outcome could be devastating. One concern few are addressing is whether Halbig presents a legitimate legal question in the first place. While the plaintiff, senior policy advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, paints this as a matter of statutory language and intent. Advocates for the ACA feel opponents are making a last ditch effort to invalidate the entire law based on imperfect legislative wording. The incessant politicization of health care reform has left most Americans frustrated and disillusioned. Regardless of the outcome, perhaps Halbig represents an opportunity to shine a light on the rhetoric surrounding the healthcare debate itself.