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Obamacare ruling expected not to affect the state

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Pennsylvania officials will continue to administer the Affordable Care Act in the state despite a recent federal court ruling invalidating the law.

A U.S. District Court judge threw out the 2010 Obama-era law after Congress repealed its tax penalties last year. Nonetheless, state officials emphasized that enrollees in ACA insurance plans will not see any changes to their health plans.

Over 1.1 million Pennsylvanians benefit from the Affordable Care Act, which allows adults under 26 to stay on their parents insurance and requires all insurers to cover to individuals with pre-existing conditions, according to Gov. Tom Wolf's office.

Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said the state anticipates the decision will be appealed and that the courts will ultimately preserve the act. There will be no changes for those that enrolled for insurance for 2019, according to Altman.

“It is important for all consumers to understand that the plans they are enrolled in today have not changed and any individual health plans they have purchased during open enrollment will still contain these important comprehensive benefits for 2019,” she said in a statement.

Employers with employee health plans will most likely be asked by their employees how the ruling will affect them, according to Patrick Plummer, a professor at Penn State Mont Alto. While there may be no immediate changes, Plummer recommended employers talk to their insurance carriers to understand whether plans could change in the coming months.

But, he added: “I suspect that insurers will keep their plans as-is until the appeals process is concluded.”

The lawsuit decided in Texas involved state attorneys general on both sides of the case. Pennsylvania did not join in to defend the ACA to ensure that the state would not be bound to an unfavorable court ruling if the defense lost, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

“Because Pennsylvania chose not to be a party to this lawsuit, we are not bound by this decision, and I will not let one misguided judge in Texas prevent us from protecting the residents of the Commonwealth," Shapiro said.

Shapiro noted that the state would be willing to take legal action against other potential encroachments on the ACA.

In the Texas ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor found that because Congress repealed the act’s individual mandate, which imposed a penalty on people who did not have insurance, the mandate could no longer count as a tax. The law, therefore, was unconstitutional because it mandated insurance coverage, he said.

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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