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Halbig v. Burwell – Impact on ACA Employer Mandate

Lot of news this week regarding the Halbig v. Burwell challenge to Obamacare.

First, a cliffs notes version of the lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Jacqueline Halbig, was a senior policy adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services within the previous administration under President George W. Bush.  The defendant is the current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell.   Based on certain phrasing within the Affordable Care Act, Halbig is challenging the legitimacy of the federal government to provide subsidies for healthcare policies purchased outside of state-run exchanges.  At the hear of the argument is whether the law actually permits the government to use tax payer dollars to make the federal exchange an affordable alternative for individuals in states that did not set up their own healthcare exchanges.

Just this week the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Halbig by a 2-1 margin.  A contradictory ruling in a separate court for a similar case likely means the Halbig v. Burwell lawsuit will make its way to the Supreme Court.  While these challenges languish in the courts, the ruling on the legitimacy of the federal exchange would have a ripple effect for other facets of the law – specifically the employer mandate.  Andrea Davis at the Health Insurance Exchange has a great write-up on the possibility that the employer mandate, scheduled to start in January 2015, could be delayed again in order for businesses to react to the ramifications of these impending court decisions.