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Texas Has No Answers To What's Next After Obamacare Ruling

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News
Anita Hoffman works with Elizabeth Colvin, director of Foundation Communities' Insure Central Texas, to sign up for a health insurance plan on June 17, 2015.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, possibly today, on a case that will decide whether tax subsidies for health insurance plans bought on the federal marketplace are legal.

If the court strikes down the subsidies, however, the matter of who decides what happens next in Texas remains murky. 

To date, no one in Texas has said anything about what the state will do if the Supreme Court strikes down the tax subsidies on federal marketplaces. Texas did not set up its own marketplace, so it uses the federal one.

Roughly 1 million people in Texas received a subsidy that makes their monthly premium cheaper.

I went on a quest to find out who has a say on what could happen next in Texas. First, I was pointed to this interview with Gov. Greg Abbott on Fox Business this past Sunday.

"We are going to do everything we can to allow the law to implode so that we can go down a pathway of providing real healthcare reform in this country," Gov. Abbott said in an interview with Neil Cavuto.

But what if Abbott did want to set up a state exchange to head off the potential of those 1 million people losing their insurance? Press Secretary John Wittman said in a statement, "Governor Abbott believes Texas’ unique healthcare situation is best addressed by free market policies that empower patients to make healthcare decisions that are in their best interests." The Texas Department of Insurance and the Health and Human Services Commission said they don’t know who has authority, but are waiting for state leaders to decide.

State Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican on the House Public Health committee, did say he hopes state lawmakers would be asked, one way or another. He carried legislation in 2011 on setting up a state exchange. 

"It’s a rather complicated procedure and it’s one frankly I think the state legislature needs to weigh in on," he said.

Since the Texas Legislature is done until 2017, that would take Abbott calling a special session. Of course, if the Supreme Court rules that the subsidies are legal, then those 1 million Texans could keep their subsidies and nothing would change. 

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