News Releases

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Isakson Troubled by Administration's Lack of Obamacare Contingency Plans

Urges administration to inform Georgians about Supreme Court case challenging subsidies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., joined his Senate colleagues in questioning the Obama administration’s lack of planning or communication to millions of residents of Georgia and as many as 35 other states in advance of a significant U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected in the coming months on an Obamacare lawsuit known as the King v. Burwell case. 

The question before the Supreme Court is whether Obamacare’s tax credits and subsidies are for all consumers or are limited only to consumers of state-run marketplaces. If the Supreme Court rules that the Obamacare law may provide tax credits and subsidies only through exchanges established by a state, that would have a substantial impact on residents of as many as 36 states – including Georgia – that use a federal exchange rather than a state-run exchange. 

Isakson joined Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee in sending a letter to the administration criticizing the administration’s failure to answer basic questions about its contingency planning or to communicate the potential impact of this upcoming court decision to Congress, including multiple administration officials refusing to answer questions about the case during a number of Senate hearings held last week. 

“It is particularly disturbing to me, as a senator and a businessman, that if the government is in the business of providing health insurance, they would not have developed a plan well in advance to ensure that their customers know and understand their options given the serious questions about whether they have the legal authority to provide subsidies,” said Isakson. 

Isakson continued, “I want to make certain that the government has notified people who have signed up through the HHS insurance exchange—including the thousands of Georgians who were forced to enroll after Obamacare cancelled their health plans—of the potential consequences of the Court ruling against the government, especially given the fact that the cost of the program could be significantly increased. The Obama administration needs to be forthcoming about its backup plans so my constituents can make their own backup plans.” 

During a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee last week regarding the president’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell was questioned regarding HHS plans in the event that the Supreme Court rules against the administration in the King v. Burwell case. Burwell repeatedly failed to answer these questions, instead deferring to the Department of Justice. 

The letter from the Finance Committee senators states, “Given multiple opportunities to inform the Senate committee charged with oversight of HHS, we find Ms. Burwell’s lack of candor to be remarkable. Secretary Burwell’s testimony – or lack thereof – deepens our concern about the Administration’s readiness to respond to an adverse King v. Burwell ruling.  Treasury Secretary Lew and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Koskinen also evaded this issue when it was raised at hearings before the Committee this week.  Congress cannot perform its role of overseeing the executive branch if agency heads repeatedly refuse to answer straightforward questions about matters of great import.” 

The letter, sent today to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice, asks whether the administration has contingency plans if the Supreme Court rules against the government in King v. Burwell and what the plans specifically include. It also questions whether the administration has communicated with insurers that participate in about the possibility that the Supreme Court might rule against the government in King v. Burwell, in addition to whether the affected insurers will be given the option of ending their participation in the federal exchange.

The letter was led by Sen. Hatch, R-Utah, Finance Committee chair, and was co-signed by Isakson and the twelve other Senate Republicans on the committee.