House leaders, DOJ request delay in ACA lawsuit

Gavel and flag in courtroom
The House of Representatives and Department of Justice are seeking more time to decide what to do about a lawsuit over ACA subsidies. (Getty/AlexStar)

The House of Representatives and the Department of Justice filed a joint motion on Tuesday to request more time to decide if they want to move forward with a lawsuit that challenges the legality of the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reduction (CSR) program.

The motion (PDF) seeks to give both groups until May 22 to offer a status report, with 90-day windows thereafter for similar reports. An appeals court already ruled to put the case on hold about a month after President Donald Trump was elected.

A federal circuit court ruled in favor of the House in the case last year, saying the CSR program—which allocates funds to health insurers that they then pass on to ACA exchange-plan enrollees—was illegal because Congress never appropriated the funds.

Should the subsidies be eliminated, it could create significant chaos in the individual marketplaces. Many insurers might then be forced to drop out of the exchanges.

Leading industry trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, said one of its major recommendations to stabilize the marketplaces is to continue funding CSRs and other subsidies until at least 2019. If the appeals court grants the request to further delay the outcome of the case, now known as House v. Price, it could leave insurers in suspense for another few months about what will happen to CSRs.

The purpose of the delay, the motion said, is to "allow time for a resolution that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action," suggesting that Congress could act to temporarily extend CSRs.

In another recent development, the Trump administration proposed extending some filing deadlines for qualified health plans in order to give insurers more time to decide whether to participate in the marketplaces in 2018.

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