Admin monitors conflicting court rulings on Obamacare


The Inos administration said yesterday that the two conflicting rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals on the same day over the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare does not seem to have any impact on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement last week that certain provisions of ACA would no longer be interpreted to apply to the CNMI and other U.S. territories.

Press secretary Angel Demapan, however, said the Inos administration will continue to monitor ensuing developments.

“At this point, it doesn’t seem like either of the conflicting rulings would have any impact on HHS’ announcement that the territories were largely exempted from the ACA,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said, “We need to wait and let the process come to some finality.”

On Tuesday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down a major part of Obamacare, ruling that the insurance subsidies that help millions of Americans pay for coverage are illegal in three dozen states.

Less than two hours later, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, handed down a contradictory ruling on the issue in a separate case. This raises the possibility of yet another high-stakes battle over Obamacare playing out before the Supreme Court.

The conflicting rulings center on whether the insurance subsidies may be awarded in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces and instead left the task to the federal government.

Sablan said the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision last week “is more complicated than it appears.”

“And we remain at work trying to fully understand its implications to insurance companies, employers, employees and health insurance consumers in the Northern Marianas,” he said.

Sablan said he “wanted a temporary relief—a delay of the ACA’s 2014 minimum requirements.”

CMS, just a year ago, said the CNMI was included in the law’s definition of a state for this purpose.

“Then last week, and probably in response to the combined request of insurance commissioners from all non-state parts of the U.S., CMS made a complete reversal to its earlier decision. …The minimum protection requirements set forth in ACA protect consumers. And I want those protections to continue. But it became a problem when premiums become too expensive, and there were no premium subsidies, for the Northern Marianas. And now, potentially for residents of the 36 states that do not have state health exchanges,” Sablan said yesterday.

He said he will continue to work in Congress “to see how we can continue to protect consumers but also not drive insurance companies away.”

“And, truth be told, insurance companies don’t object to the minimum requirements applying to the Northern Marianas so long as the premium subsidies are available. The CMS decision does not change my work relationship with insurance company executives just as I have been doing for about two years now. I urge them not to roll back the coverage they provided up to last week’s CMS decision,” he added.

Last week, HHS determined specifically that individual or group health insurance issuers in the U.S. territories need not comply with the guaranteed availability, community rating, single risk pool, rate review, medical loss ratio, and essential health benefits provisions of health law.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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