Two states win approval for ObamaCare backup plans

Both Delaware and Pennsylvania have won approval from the federal government to pursue back-up plans to save their ObamaCare subsidies if the healthcare law loses in court this month.

The two states have been "conditionally approved" to set up their own healthcare marketplaces, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced late Monday.

It is the administration's biggest step to date related to contingency planning for the high-stakes court case, and sends an important signal to the dozens of other states that may consider setting up an exchange in order to save their subsidies.

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Delaware and Pennsylvania are among the estimated 34 states that stand to lose healthcare subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against ObamaCare this month in King v. Burwell. They are the only two states to have submitted contingency plans for the ruling.

If the Obama administration loses in the case, any state that does not run its own marketplace – also known as an exchange – would no longer be able to hand out subsidies to people buying healthcare.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell sent letters to both states' health officials, in which she congratulated them for "reaching this significant milestone." Neither letter mentions the court case.

"These Marketplaces will be the gateway for each state’s residents and small businesses to shop for a broad choice of affordable, quality health insurance coverage," the agency wrote in a statement, which also announced new approval for a small business marketplace in Arkansas.

"We will continue to work collaboratively with States to provide the guidance and assistance they need to help consumers and small businesses compare and sign up for affordable private health insurance plans,” the agency wrote.