Lawsuit Could Raise Health Insurance Premiums For Oklahomans


Tuesday, July 8th 2014, 6:32 pm
By: Dana Hertneky


A decision is expected any day now on a court case that could raise health insurance premiums for about 55,000 Oklahomans. Some said it could also be a fatal blow to Obamacare.

The lawsuit pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is questioning, whether people who signed up for insurance on healthcare.gov can receive government subsides.

Carol Manalo needed insurance after she retired in August 2012. She was hopeful Obamacare would offer an affordable option.

“As soon as I heard about the program I went out and applied because my COBRA insurance was expensive,” she said.

Like 33 other states, Oklahoma, opted not to set up its own on-line marketplace, so Manalo went to the national exchange healthcare.gov.

“The premiums were cheaper than what I was paying so that’s when I decided to go ahead and enroll in the healthcare program,” she said.

The latest numbers from April show 79% percent of Oklahomans, who selected a plan for health insurance on healthcare.gov, received government subsidies. But the lawsuit Halbig vs. Burwell points to the wording in the Affordable Care Act, it said tax credits should be allowed for participants "which were enrolled in through an exchange established by the “state” not the national exchange.

“It’s that simple, the subsidies have to go through a state exchange,” said Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General.

Attorney General Pruitt filed a very similar lawsuit in 2012 and has filed an amicus brief in support of Halbig.

“It’s a very important case because if we are successful in Oklahoma, and the private plaintiffs are successful in D.C., then the very structure of the Affordable Care Act falls, because subsidies cannot be issued nor can penalties be assessed,” he said.

The Obama administration argues the wording "by the state" refers to any exchange. Pruitt says a ruling in the D.C. case could influence a decision in the Oklahoma lawsuit.