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Wolf praises ruling on federal health care subsidies, will end state's bid to run marketplace


HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — The Wolf administration said Thursday that it will withdraw its application to take over some functions of the insurance marketplace created under the 2010 federal health care law now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the law's nationwide tax subsidies.

The subsidies currently keep health insurance premiums lower for about 382,000 lower-income Pennsylvanians, and the court challenge posed a threat to cut off federal aid to states that were not running their own insurance marketplaces.

"I am extremely pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling in King v. Burwell," Wolf said in a statement. "As a result of this decision, roughly 382,000 Pennsylvanians will keep their much-needed assistance to help them afford health care."

Pennsylvania has more people receiving the subsidized insurance plans through a federally-run marketplace than four other states: Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.

As a result, Wolf said, his administration will notify the federal government that it is withdrawing its plan to take over some functions of the insurance marketplace.

"I took steps to protect Pennsylvania's consumers by putting in place a contingency in the event the Supreme Court ruled people are not eligible for subsidies, but I am pleased to say that we will no longer need to rely on this plan," Wolf said. "My administration will be notifying the federal government that we will be withdrawing our plan to set up a state based health insurance marketplace in Pennsylvania."

Rockney Shepheard, a small business owner who buys a subsidized plan, called the health care ruling "great news."

"I'm very happy about the decision on a personal level and for everybody in the same boat as I am in Pennsylvania and all the other states," Shepheard said Thursday. "It's great news for us and the Obama presidency."

The 62-year-old Stroudsburg resident had been denied coverage for a pre-existing condition before the health law's protections went into effect. The monthly subsidy he receives brings his premium down to $180, which he said he can afford.

"I think occasionally the Supreme Court rules in favor of something I deem to be rational," Shepheard said. "Saving health care for millions of people is nothing to sneeze at."

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated last November that as many as 736,000 Pennsylvanians could be enrolled in subsidized marketplace plans in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave conditional approval to Pennsylvania's application on June 15, two weeks after the Wolf administration submitted the application.

Under its application, Pennsylvania, like some other states already do, wanted to enlist the federal government to perform some duties, such as eligibility determinations and enrollment through the healthcare.gov website.

Pennsylvania was seeking to regulate the insurance plans, direct consumer outreach and run a consumer call center.

Associated Press reporter Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.

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