The Star-Ledger

Setting Up N.J. Health-Care Exchange Would Ensure Tax Subsidies For State Residents | Opinion

The Star-Ledger — Saturday, June 20, 2015

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist
Maura Collinsgru

Any day now the Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell, a case that could have far-reaching effects on health care in America. The Supreme Court will rule on whether the Affordable Care Act allows consumers in New Jersey and 33 other states that did not establish their own state based health exchange to receive tax credits to help pay for insurance. These 34 states now use Healthcare.gov, the federally facilitated marketplace. When Congress wrote and passed the ACA, everybody — Republicans, Democrats and the Congressional Budget Office alike — agreed that the tax credits would be available in all states, regardless of whether they set up their own health insurance marketplace or used the federal one.

Nationwide, more than six million Americans will lose tax credits on their health insurance next year if the Supreme Court rules to limit tax credits to consumers in states operating their own exchange. In New Jersey more than 170,000 people who received tax credits would lose them, resulting in a loss of $54 million for New Jersey consumers.

And it won't just be those receiving tax credits that are affected. A ruling against tax credits for those living in the 34 states that don't operate their own exchange, will cause health insurance premiums to spike for millions more who have health insurance through other sources, like their employer. The resulting chaos would ripple through the health care system, affecting consumers and health care providers across the country.

Even Gov. Chris Christie, who has been hands off to the ACA implementation, opinioned that should the Supreme Court rule against tax credits for states like New Jersey that don't operate their own exchanges, "Congress should fix it."

Congress could fix the language of the ACA in the event the Supreme Court rules to strike out tax credits for states that don't operate their own exchange. But states could also act to set up their own state exchange and protect access to subsidies in their state. To that end, a bill to establish a New Jersey state exchange has been reintroduced by Sen. Nia H. Gill (D-Essex) and Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) to do just that.

These legislators are poised to act quickly in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court rules to eliminate access to tax credits for the millions of consumers in the 34 states who now use the federal exchange. But we'll need Gov. Christie to work with them to make that legislation law and preserve access to ACA subsidies for the more than 170,000 New Jerseyans who now rely on them.

It is long past time for Democrats and Republicans to work together to tear down the barriers to health care that still exist for far too many people in our state and our nation. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, our state has the power to preserve access to health insurance through the ACA, but only if Gov. Christie stands with health care consumers.

Maura Collinsgru is health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action.

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