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Burwell Defends Nationwide Subsidies for Health Law

By Rebecca Adams, CQ Roll Call

March 9, 2015 -- The fact that 87 percent of the 11.7 million people who got covered in the health law's individual exchange market received subsidies shows "just how important the tax credits are to millions of Americans and to the insurance markets in those states," said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell last week.

The subsidies are at the core of a Supreme Court case against Burwell and the Obama administration that was argued March 4. The challengers contend that people in the 34 states that did not set up their own marketplaces should not get federal tax credits to subsidize the costs of their insurance under the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

Burwell said the Obama administration is "confident that we will prevail" because she said the structure of the law is clear.

"Those who support this lawsuit believe that the law should be dismantled or repealed and they are content to back the progress that we have achieved," she told supporters at a White House event.

The numbers that Burwell released last week update previous estimates that the administration released on Feb. 17 showing that 11.4 million people had enrolled. A week later, administration officials provided a partial update with data from federal exchanges only.

The new numbers include data from both federal and state-run marketplaces through Feb. 22.

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