Three of the four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s tax subsidies may not have standing, according to new evidence. Two of these plaintiffs are Vietnam veterans, and as such, are eligible for premium-free healthcare through the VA. The third has income that’s too low, which would exempt her from the individual mandate. The whole point of the suit is the idea that the subsidies harm Americans in the states without their own exchanges, because the language of the law says that the subsidies only apply to state-run exchanges.
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, David King and Douglas Hurst both declared in court papers that they weren’t eligible for insurance through the government or an employer. Their lawyers say they likely don’t actually qualify for care with the VA. Even if they do, WSJ reports, they didn’t enroll, so they don’t meet the legal definition of eligibility.
Whether that was a willful omission of facts, something that just slipped their minds, or something else, is irrelevant; the point is, these two plaintiffs are likely not harmed by the individual mandate of the ACA. Despite that, their lawyers also say they didn’t misrepresent anything in their court filings, due to the information above.
WSJ says that other legal experts disagree, though, because even if they never enrolled in the VA, they still qualify for enrollment. That means they have access to VA healthcare. Americans whom the individual mandate would truly hurt are people who don’t have access to anything, except through the exchanges or healthcare.gov. King says the suit isn’t about him (from which we can infer that he thinks it doesn’t matter whether he is harmed by the law), but rather, it’s an attempt to bring down the ACA altogether.
If the tax subsidies are struck down, then millions of Americans could suddenly be forced to give up their health insurance, since it wouldn’t be affordable anymore. Republicans are supposedly working on a contingency to keep those people covered, however, those efforts are as fractured and dissonant as their efforts to come up with an alternative to the ACA, to go with their “repeal and replace” mantra.
If these plaintiffs lose standing, it wouldn’t stop the Supreme Court from hearing the case, because the fourth plaintiff still has standing. All it takes is one plaintiff. However, it would weaken their entire case, because it would show how hard they’re having to look to find people who are actually harmed by the ACA. That, in turn, could influence the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Featured image by Daderot. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons