The Children's Dental Health Project's blog
A win for affordable health coverage
The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the much-anticipated case of King v. Burwell. The 6-3 decision ensures that millions of Americans purchasing coverage on the new health insurance marketplaces will be eligible for tax credits to help them cover the cost of monthly premiums, regardless of whether the marketplace was established by the state or the federal government.
As CDHP has previously discussed, the question before the Court in this case was whether the federal government has the authority to provide tax credit subsidies to individuals and families purchasing coverage in federally-run marketplaces. Despite the clear intent of the law, plaintiffs in King and similar cases have latched onto statutory language that provides subsidies for those purchasing coverage “through an Exchange established by the State.”
And this is great news for oral health specifically; working families whose children now get their dental benefits through a health plan thanks to the ACA will continue to receive subsidies to keep that coverage.
Of course, any further reading of the law reveals its intent was never to force millions of Americans to purchase coverage without assistance just because they happen to live in states that chose not to establish a marketplace under the ACA. Luckily this was also clear to at least six of the Justices as the subsidies truly are a linchpin of the health care law. Prior to today’s ruling, the Urban Institute estimated that an unfavorable decision by the Court would do away with nearly $29 billion in premium tax credits for working families, result in 8.2 million more uninsured in 2016 and health insurance premiums that are as much as 35% higher.
In short, today’s ruling is great news for those the law sought to help and those of us it indirectly benefits. And this is great news for oral health specifically; working families whose children now get their dental benefits through a health plan thanks to the ACA will continue to receive subsidies to keep that coverage. Meanwhile, other families who were previously unable to afford health or dental coverage and who may now have some available income to purchase can rest easy knowing those subsidies aren’t going anywhere.
However, for those families who still don’t get a tax credit for their children’s dental coverage when purchased separately from a health plan, we can only hope that the IRS now feels a bit more comfortable in taking a commonsense reading of the law’s tax credit provisions.
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