Austin -- Today, State Representative Chris Turner held a press conference at the Texas Capitol, and was joined by Texas Hospital Association President/CEO Ted Shaw and Texans in danger of losing their tax credits if the United States Supreme Court decides in the plaintiffs' favor in the King v. Burwell case.
At issue is whether or not people who chose health insurance plans through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, and not through a state-based health insurance exchange, are eligible for tax credits, which are used to defray the cost of premiums. In order to provide a safety net, Representative Turner has filed two pieces of legislation, HB 817 and HB 818, both of which would create a state-based health insurance exchange.
"If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs this June, it will be a disaster for more than one million Texas citizens," said Turner. "My colleagues and our state's leadership need to do the prudent thing and have a contingency plan in place in case the Supreme Court rules in the plaintiffs' favor. That is why I filed two measures creating a state-based health insurance exchange, to protect middle-class Texans from being forced out of their health insurance plans and from seeing a huge increase in the federal taxes."
"Neither bill is a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, and I understand that many of my colleagues don't support that law," said Turner. "However, I do hope that they see past political rhetoric and agree that making sure our constituents don't get hit with a major tax increase is the right thing to do."
HB 817 provides a trigger mechanism that will protect Texans should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the plaintiffs. Under this legislation, the Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Insurance are directed to create a state exchange in the event of a judicial ruling which eliminates tax credits for Texans enrolled in the federal exchange. This bill would give the state the ability to determine which plans are eligible to participate, review rates and determine whether plans include coverage of essential health benefits.
HB 818 would simply create a state-based exchange, regardless of any action the Supreme Court takes.
“Texas already leads the nation with 25 percent of our population lacking health insurance,” said Ted Shaw, President/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association. “Our hospitals are providing health care to these individuals, at a cost of more than $5.5 billion annually. An end to tax subsidies and private health insurance coverage for nearly one million Texans will further weaken the already strained health care safety net and increase the unreimbursed care costs shifted on to employers and property taxpayers.”
At the press conference, Turner and Shaw were joined by two Texans who would be negatively impacted if the Supreme Court rules in the plaintiffs' favor.
Healthcare contactor and Austin resident Debbie Townley lives paycheck to paycheck. Debbie's health insurance plan through IdealCare costs $352 per month and without the monthly $194 tax credit, she would no longer be able to afford her plan.
After 10 years without coverage, Donna Allen was able to find a Silver-level health insurance plan that she can afford. A part-time student at Austin Community College and owner of a house cleaning business, Ms. Allen receives a $400 per month tax credit. As a result, she pays little to nothing for her coverage. Without the tax credit, she would rejoin the ranks of the uninsured in Texas.
The Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a study in January, which, based on 2016 enrollment projections, estimates that nearly 1.6 million Texans would lose their tax credits if the Court sides with the plaintiffs. They estimate this would equal nearly $4.4 billion in lost tax credits statewide. The report goes on to say that of the 1.6 million Texans who would no longer have a tax credit, 1.44 million would also no longer be able to afford coverage.
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