Fact-checking Debbie Wasserman Schultz on health care court rulings
Steve Contorno
By Steve Contorno July 24, 2014
By Molly O'Connor July 24, 2014

Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in a landmark 5-4 decision, legal challenges to the law continue.

And U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, remains a key cheerleader of the law in her role as Democratic National Committee chair.

On Tuesday, two appeals courts issued rulings on the legality of subsidies for people who purchase health insurance on the federal government’s health insurance marketplace.

In Halbig vs. Burwell, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said people in states that don’t operate their own marketplaces can’t get financial aid through subsidies. Just hours later, though, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously reached the opposite conclusion in King vs. Burwell. The state of Florida, led by health care law opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, does not have a state-run exchange.

Wasserman Schultz appeared on a Las Vegas news program to discuss the dueling decisions. But she stumbled out of the gates.

She said Nevada had "a governor who refused to implement a state exchange." She quickly had to backtrack as journalist Jon Ralston reminded her of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s enthusiastic support of a state exchange. "Well, I stand corrected, I’m not from Nevada," Wasserman Schultz acknowledged.

But she went on to make a few more claims we decided to look at.

Recovering from the Nevada remark, Wasserman Schultz followed up with this: "There were 36 states where Republicans who were in charge refused to implement a state exchange, and as a result people who get Affordable Care Act plans are getting them through the federal exchange."

We checked it out. Of the 36 states without a state-run health insurance exchange, a fair amount are actually run by Democratic governors and a few are solidly blue states. We gave the claim a Mostly False.

We were also curious about a rather cheesy analogy she claimed the Fourth Circuit Court served up in its opinion.

"The language in the Fourth Circuit actually compared if you buy a pizza from Pizza Hut to a pizza from Dominoes," Wasserman Schultz said. "And if you ask for ham and pepperoni on your Pizza Hut pizza, but then I actually go get your pizza from Domino’s, it’s implied if I bring back a pepperoni and ham pizza, then that’s what you asked for."

We looked through the ruling. There was certainly a pizza metaphor in there, except it wasn’t the opinion of the entire court, but rather one concurring judge. And she kind of botched her delivery, somewhat confusing what the court actually said.

But it’s close, and we gave her statement a Mostly True.

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Our Sources

NBC News 3, Ralston Report interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, July 22, 2014

Vox, "Why a federal court just ruled Obamacare subsidies are illegal in 36 states," July 22, 2014

PolitiFact, "In Idaho debate that went viral, challenger misfires on Obamacare marketplace claim," May 19, 2014

Politico, "Nevada's Republican governor is 'all in' on ACA," December 7, 2013

Idaho Statesman, "Courts issue conflicting rulings on health care tax subsidies," July 22, 2014

Santa Fe New Mexican, "State health exchange’s online market faces obstacles," July 11, 2014

Lewiston Morning Tribune, "Officials say they don't know if new enrollees previously had insurance :Idaho health care exchange leaders give their first report to state Legislature," Jan. 22, 2014, accessed via Nexis

The Kaiser Family Foundation, "State Health Insurance Marketplace Profiles," accessed July 23, 2014

The Kaiser Family Foundation, "State Health Insurance Marketplace Decisions, 2014," accessed July 23, 2014

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Halbig v. Burwell, July 22, 2014

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, King et. al. v. Burwell, July 22, 2014

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