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What Utahns need to know about today’s Obamacare rulings

86 percent of Utahns who got new coverage under Obama’s

health care law are subsidized.

First Published Jul 22 2014 12:28 pm • Last Updated Jul 22 2014 10:02 pm

The latest legal fight over the Affordable Care Act takes aim at federal subsidies given to residents of Utah and 35 other states that didn’t set up their own health care marketplaces.

A panel of D.C. Circuit judges ruled Tuesday the law allows federal subsidies to flow only through state-created marketplaces and not to people who bought coverage through Healthcare.gov. But on the same day, a 4th Circuit ruling in a separate, but similar, case allows the federal government to give subsidies to those people who meet the criteria whether they bought a plan through a federal or a state marketplace.

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So what does this all mean for Utahns? Here are some answers:

Why might Utah be affected by these rulings?

The new federal health law, often dubbed Obamacare, encouraged states to create their own insurance marketplaces, online portals where people could shop for coverage if they do not get insurance through their jobs. Thirty-six states, mostly led by Republicans opposed to the law, ultimately refused.

As a result, the federal government created Healthcare.gov.

Utah does have a marketplace for small businesses, called Avenue H, but Gov. Gary Herbert decided in late 2012 that he wouldn’t create a marketplace for individuals searching for coverage on their own.

What is the next legal step?

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The Obama administration plans to appeal the 2-1 panel decision to the full D.C. Circuit. It’s possible that one or both of these cases could eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court. If that happens, a final ruling would be months away.

How many Utahns received such subsidies?

As of mid-April, 84,601 Utahns had signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov and more than 72,700 of them received federal subsidies. The average subsidy was around $174 per month. It’s likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of Utahns have signed up since mid-April because they have changed jobs or lost their previous plans for another reason.

Nationwide, 4.5 million people received subsidies.

Do Tuesday’s rulings change or stop those subsidies?

No. These rulings, while important, are far from the final word. No one’s subsidies will stop at this time.

Jason Stevenson at the Utah Health Policy Project, which assists Utahns in signing up for the Affordable Care Act, says people should feel comfortable using their insurance.

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