Law & Courts

Educators’ Views Vary in Dispute Over Health Care Law

By Mark Walsh — February 24, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Affordable Care Act returns to the U.S. Supreme Court next week, and educators are watching from several perspectives.

The justices on March 4 will weigh whether President Barack Obama’s administration overstepped its authority when it extended subsidies to those who live in states that did not create their own insurance marketplaces under the landmark health-care law.

Critics of the president’s signature law, who have been relentless in trying to overturn it or slow it down, view the case of King v. Burwell (No. 14-114) as one of their best hopes for doing just that. A decision by the high court ending subsidies for participants in 34 states would seriously hobble the overall law, analysts say.

Substitute Teacher a Challenger

One of the four challengers in the King case is Brenda Levy, a 64-year-old substitute teacher from Richmond, Va. She averred in a 2013 court document that she expected to earn $43,000 in 2014, but with no workplace-based health insurance.

That income would exempt her from the ACA’s requirement to purchase health insurance—except for the fact that, under the contested Internal Revenue Service rule, the federal health-insurance exchange offers subsidies to residents of Virginia and the other states that have declined to establish their own exchanges.

“Absent any eligibility for federal subsidies, I would be exempt in 2014 from the individual mandate penalty,” Ms. Levy said in the 2013 legal declaration. “Thus, if I am eligible for a federal subsidy in 2014, I will be forced either to pay a tax penalty or to buy Affordable Care Act-compliant health coverage for 2014. … I do not want to purchase ACA-compliant health coverage in 2014.”

Ms. Levy and three other individuals are challenging the IRS rule in the King case. They argue that language in the healthcare law limits subsidies to those purchasing insurance through, as the law puts it, “exchanges established by the state.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the Obama administration’s interpretation that the ACA permits subsidies for those buying insurance through the federal HealthCare.gov exchange.

The case has attracted hundreds of pages of briefs from interested groups. But in recent weeks, some news outlets have raised questions about the legal standing of the four Virginia challengers, including Ms. Levy. Two of the other challengers are apparently Vietnam War veterans and potentially eligible for coverage and care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A third challenger has faced questions about her residency in Virginia.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal visited Ms. Levy at her Richmond home, where she told its reporters that she had little knowledge of the case and had been told by the lawsuit’s organizers not to discuss it. The paper quoted a spokesman for the Chesterfield County, Va., public schools as stating that Ms. Levy earned about $10,000 annually from her substitute teaching position there. If that were her total income, she would not be subject to a penalty for not purchasing insurance under the ACA.

It was unclear whether Ms. Levy’s projection of $43,000 in income for 2014 included additional sources of pay. She couldn’t be reached for comment.

Standing on the sidelines of the King case is a group of 39 Indiana school districts, which are pressing a separate lawsuit that challenges the IRS subsidy rule over its impact on employers.

The districts say that distribution of subsidies under the federal exchange in a state such as Indiana, which does not have its own exchange, triggers a provision of the ACA that requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide minimum coverage to those who work 30 or more hours a week, or else pay a penalty. The Indiana suit is on hold in the federal district court in Indianapolis because its outcome could be affected by how the Supreme Court rules in King, said W. James Hamilton, an Indianapolis lawyer representing the school districts. Along with the state of Indiana, the districts have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of those challenging the law in the Supreme Court case.

Many of the Indiana districts have reduced the working hours of instructional aides, substitute teachers, cafeteria staff members, bus drivers, coaches, and others to fewer than 30 hours per week to avoid the penalties under the ACA’s so-called employer mandate.

Asked why Indiana school districts have been at the forefront of challenging the law’s application and not those in other states, Mr. Hamilton said, “Public schools in Indiana are a very well-connected, mobilized group. We want the problem fixed with this law, and we don’t care how it gets done.”

NEA Weighs In

On the other side, the National Education Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the King case in support of the ACA and the Obama administration’s subsidy rules.

“NEA’s members include many low-income education support professionals—such as school bus drivers who safely transport our children to and from school, janitors who clean our schools, and cafeteria workers who nourish our children,” the union’s brief says. “Many of these individuals have benefitted immensely from the ACA’s integrated scheme for expanding affordable coverage.”

In addition, the NEA says, the law is helping improve health care for children, and the challenger’s interpretation of the ACA’s language is mistaken.

Jason Walta, the NEA’s senior counsel, said the union is concerned that a few districts have reduced hours for some school personnel to avoid penalties, “but any concern we have about that doesn’t mean we want to see the ACA scuttled.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2015 edition of Education Week as Educators’ Views Vary in Health-Care Law Dispute

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Maine Opts Out of $440M Multistate Settlement With Juul
Maine was not willing to agree to Juul's condition that would have barred school districts from suing the company.
1 min read
A cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco on June 17, 2019.
A cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco on June 17, 2019.
Samantha Maldonado/AP
Law & Courts Maine OKs First Religious School for Tuition Reimbursement
A Supreme Court ruling had ordered the state to treat religious schools the same as other private schools regarding tuition reimbursement.
1 min read
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2022.
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2022.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Law & Courts A School Librarian Pushes Back on Censorship and Gets Death Threats and Online Harassment
Amanda Jones lost her legal battle against online harassers this week but vows to continue to press her case.
7 min read
Amanda Jones, a librarian in Livingston Parish, La., pictured on Sept. 13, 2022. Jones is suing members of a Facebook group who harassed her virtually after she spoke against censorship in a public library meeting. Jones received angry emails and even a death threat from people across the country after she filed the lawsuit.
Amanda Jones, a librarian in Livingston Parish, La., is suing members of a Facebook group who harassed her virtually after she spoke against censorship in a public library meeting.
Claire Bangser for Education Week
Law & Courts Affirmative Action Cases Lead What Could Prove Another Momentous Supreme Court Term
The cases on race in college admissions could affect K-12. The justices will also weigh copyright, American Indian law, and LGBTQ rights.
7 min read
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2022.
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2022.
Patrick Semansky/AP