What’s at stake in Nebraska in the King v. Burwell ruling

courtsupremeBefore the end of June – and possibly the end of this week – the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell, a case that will impact the affordability of health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The case is based on the ambiguity of the wording within the ACA and whether the IRS’s interpretation of those words as allowing for tax credits in state-based exchanges is legal.

King v. Burwell: Explained

If the Supreme Court rules that the IRS is justified in their reasoning, then tax credits will remain available to enrollees regardless of where they live, helping millions of Americans – and about 56,000 Nebraskans – afford their health coverage. But, if the Court rules tax credits are not available in states that don’t have a state-based exchange (like Nebraska), a key component of the ACA would be eliminated in many states. Ruling that tax credits are unavailable in these states would take away the assistance that make health insurance coverage affordable for around 9.3 million Americans.

Nebraska would be hit hard by such a ruling. Last year, nearly 7 in 10 people who enrolled through the Marketplace (healthcare.gov) selected a plan that cost $100 or less per month after factoring in tax credits. Nearly 9 in 10 Nebraskans who purchased coverage through the Marketplace received some tax credits to make their plan more affordable. Without tax credits, these enrollees may find that their insurance plan is now unaffordable.

One Nebraskan, Lisa Good, tells her story about why the ACA’s tax credits are so important.  Lisa, who lives in Lincoln, lost her job when she was 50. She had to spend six years without health insurance when her new job paid significantly less than the one she lost. Thanks to the ACA, Lisa was able to get health insurance through a plan costing just $33 per month after tax credits and no longer fears bankruptcy due to health issues.

“I was curious and called the HealthCare.gov phone number to ask some questions,” she said. “I found out I could actually afford this monthly premium that everyone had told me would be outrageous. The Affordable Care Act has made me feel like a real American—like I mattered and belonged. I’m grateful it will help keep me healthy and out of bankruptcy, should anything happen.”

This case is a prime example of why courts matter and why Americans should be aware of what the federal courts are doing. The King v. Burwell ruling has the potential to change the lives of tens of millions. For more information on Why Courts Matter go to www.courtsmatterne.org or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter at @courtsmatterne.

Nebraska’s federal judge nominee – Robert Rossiter Jr.

Photo from Creighton University School of Law
Robert Rossiter  Jr Creighton University School of Law

Robert Rossiter Jr. is an Omaha-based attorney who was nominated by Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse to replace U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon. Bataillon’s vacancy was announced on October 2nd, 2013 and the nomination of Rossiter was made on August 15th, 2014. After nearly one year, however, a judicial vacancy remains in Nebraska’s District Court. Rossiter graduated from Creighton Law in Nebraska with honors in 1981. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1995 in the areas of labor and employment law. Rossiter has also been chair of the Federal Practice Committee for the district of Nebraska and also served as chair for the House of Delegates for the Nebraska Bar Association. Rossiter is currently an adjunct employment law professor and legal writing instructor at Creighton.

Nebraska’s judicial nomination process

When a vacancy occurs, lawyers submit their names for consideration to the judicial nominating commission. A public hearing is held and candidates are allowed to speak on their own behalf. The commission submits the names of at least two candidates to the Governor and voters are given the option to retain judges. If the governor does not make an appointment within 60 days of receiving the list of nominees from the judicial nominating commission, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court makes the appointment from the list.

Here is a sample letter that can be sent to Nebraska’s current Senators, Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, to let them know that you would like judicial vacancies filled.

Dear Senator,

The federal courts and the judges who serve in life-time seats on those courts matter to me. Our nation’s federal courts make rulings on virtually every issue that is important to me and my family. Individuals turn to the courts to protect their basic rights and liberties. We need a federal judicial branch that is fully staffed by diverse judges with a variety of personal and professional backgrounds.

As my United States senator, you are in a position of great responsibility on this issue. I am counting on you to ensure that any of us can have our day in court and have confidence in a fair hearing and a ruling based on the Constitution.

Please ensure that every vacancy on the federal courts is filled by supporting prompt consideration and a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.