South Dakota consumers relieved US Supreme Court upheld federal subsidies for health coverage

Lifestyle and Budget Associated Press

South Dakota consumers who get subsidized health coverage through the federal insurance marketplace said Thursday they're relieved the U.S. Supreme Court upheld tax credits that help cover the premiums by thousands of dollars on average per year.

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The high court maintained a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that affects thousands of South Dakota residents and others in more than 30 states who shop for coverage using the federal exchange. It means roughly 16,800 South Dakota consumers who bought coverage through the exchange during the 2015 enrollment period will keep getting an average of $229 in premium assistance a month.

Kelsey Collier-Wise of Vermillion, South Dakota, said she felt "relieved, very relieved" after learning about the ruling because it will save her money and trouble.

"We couldn't have kept the plan that we have now at the price that it was," said Collier-Wise, 33, who works as the executive director of the United Way of Vermillion.

Collier-Wise and her husband pay about $261 a month for their plan after a subsidy of $336 per month through the exchange. Her 5-year-old daughter is now covered through Medicaid. Before she signed up for coverage through the exchange, Collier-Wise paid roughly $750 a month to cover the whole family.

Jeff Sandene, interim president of Sanford Health Plan — which offers coverage in South Dakota through the federal marketplace — also called the Supreme Court's decision a "relief."

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"It's kind of made my day, to really tell you the truth," he said.

As of early June, Sanford had about 2,200 members covered through the exchange, with more than 1,800 getting subsidies.

Sandene said he's not surprised the high court kept the health care law intact and said the news is good for consumers and patients. Sanford would have worked with lawmakers to find a fix if the court had thrown out the subsidies, he said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the state doesn't have to change its approach to the federal health law since the court upheld the subsidies. The administration had been weighing how to respond if the court struck them down.