Commenters are wondering whether President Donald Trump’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will now wake up a major lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act public exchange program.
The question is whether HHS will decide to keep the suit, U.S. House of Representatives v. Tom Price, in suspended animation, or let it move forward.
The House originally filed the suit in the district court for the District of Columbia, against Sylvia Burwell, former President Barack Obama’s HHS secretary, in 2014. House Republicans questioned whether Obama’s administration had a valid congressional appropriation to pay ACA cost-sharing reduction program subsidies.
The cost-sharing reduction subsidy helps users of eligible exchange plans who have income under 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay the insurance plan deductibles, coinsurance amounts and co-payments. House Republicans acknowledged that the ACA gave HHS the authority to fund the ACA premium tax credit subsidy, but they said the ACA lacked any permanent funding source for the cost-sharing reduction subsidy program. The Obama administration argued that the ACA funding provision for the premium tax credit program also applied to the cost-sharing reduction subsidy program.
A district court judge sided with the House.
The Obama administration’s HHS appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in July. After Trump became president, the House and HHS agreed to freeze action on the case, to give Congress a chance to act.
In February, the House and HHS agreed to a court order that calls for the parties to give the court quarterly updates on the situation starting May 22.
Now that the effort to pass H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act bill has stalled, “it is unclear whether the administration will… continue to delay the pending litigation,” the employee benefits arm of Wells Fargo says in a compliance alert sent to its group benefits clients.
CNBC, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal have also reported on the possibility that HHS could wake up House v. Price.
Up till now, Trump’s HHS has seemed to take the job of running the ACA exchange system seriously.