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Oregon Hopes To Sidestep US Supreme Court Health Care Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act. But Oregon has tried to immunize itself against the King v. Burwell decision.

The case will decide whether people who bought health insurance through the federal exchange are eligible for the same tax subsidies as those who bought it through state exchanges.

It’s a decision that could play havoc with the Affordable Care Act.

But Oregon is trying to sidestep the problem.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, said Oregon’s Legislature dealt with King v. Burwell when it wrote a new law transferring Cover Oregon to the feds.

"We designed it with very careful advice from our attorneys to make certain that as a federally supported state exchange, our citizens would be covered regardless of which way King v. Burwell would come out," he said.

Whether Oregon’s efforts are successful, depend largely on the court’s decision. But a few other states including Delaware, Nevada and New Mexico are trying similar side steps.

About 7 million people across more than 30 states are eligible for these tax subsidies. If they can no longer get them, many won't be able to afford insurance anymore. And without them, prices would rise for everyone else.

Obama administration officials say the'’re not doing any "contingency planing."

But if the court rules for opponents of the Affordable Care Act, the administration could help states establish their own exchanges, by loosening requirements.

The question is does "the state" mean individual states like Oregon, or government in general, as in "the state?" Congress could develop a fix by clarifying what they meant by "the state," but that would require cooperation across party lines.

The Affordable Care Act says subsidies should flow to customers through an exchange established by "the state."

Opponents of the act argue that "the state" means only people enrolled through state-run marketplaces can get subsidies, and not people buying from the federal marketplace.

You can listen to Kristian's conversation with OPB's All Things Considered host Kate Davidson above.

<p>Centene Corporation is trying to buy Trillium Community Health for about $100m.</p>

US Bureau of Labor Statistics


Oregon hopes to side-step US Supreme Court decision.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.