The opponents of the Affordable Care Act have filed another long-shot lawsuit that could undermine health care reform and force many consumers to pay more for health insurance if the suit succeeds.
The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate case, filed by anti-reform forces, that seeks to prevent the payment of tax credit subsidies to help people buy insurance in 36 states where the federal government has established health care exchanges because the state chose not to. If that case succeeds, low- and middle-income people in those states will have to pay a lot more of their insurance premiums.
The new suit, filed late last month by the Republican-dominated House, aims to block another important subsidy: federal payments to insurance companies to keep deductibles, co-payments and other cost-sharing low for the poor. The Affordable Care Act specifies the maximum amounts people will have to pay in cost-sharing based on their incomes, and federal subsidies make up the rest.
If the government is blocked from reimbursing insurers for the subsidies, the insurers will have to absorb the costs. But companies might well raise their premiums for everyone else in the individual market to recoup the loss. The House lawsuit argues that no money was appropriated to reimburse insurers for cost-sharing and that the administration could not use money from a separate account that subsidizes premiums.