Pennsylvania prepares backup plan for ObamaCare case

Pennsylvania prepares backup plan for ObamaCare case
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Friday outlined a contingency plan for his state in case the Supreme Court guts ObamaCare.

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Wolf’s plan calls for Pennsylvania to set up its own insurance marketplace if the court rules against the Obama administration in the case King v. Burwell. The case could revoke subsidies that help 7.5 million people afford healthcare coverage, but only in the roughly three-dozen states relying on the federal marketplace. 

If Pennsylvania sets up its own marketplace, as 13 other states have, subsidies there would continue to flow.

“In order to protect 382,000 Pennsylvanians from potentially losing subsidies that help them afford health care coverage, I have written to the federal government outlining a contingency plan to set up a state-based marketplace to ensure no one loses their health coverage,” Wolf said in a statement. 

Wolf's Republican predecessor declined to set up a marketplace in the state, but Wolf, a Democrat, is far more willing to create one.

Many of the states that could lose subsidies have Republican governors who are struggling to figure out what to do if the court rules for the challengers. Their citizens’ face the loss of subsidies, but Republicans in general remain strongly opposed to ObamaCare.

Some GOP governors, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have vowed not to set up a marketplace, while others, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, have not ruled out the option. 

During oral arguments in March, conservative Justice Samuel Alito raised the possibility of the court delaying the ruling's effects until the end of the year to give states time to set up their own marketplaces.

The Obama administration’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., called the prospect of states setting up their own marketplaces in six months “completely unrealistic.”

The Obama administration has maintained that there is nothing it can do if the court strikes down the subsidies, arguing the justices should rule in its favor. 

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Pennsylvania letter.

Pennsylvania does not envision setting up a marketplace that it runs completely by itself. Instead, it says “Pennsylvania will assume responsibility for running the Marketplace, but will leverage the Federally Facilitated Marketplace’s (FFM’s) existing infrastructure to provide certain services.”

The state says it will work closely with the federal government to figure out which responsibilities would be on the state level and which would be federal.