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Mass. unlikely to be affected by health care rulings

Will Tuesday’s conflicting court rulings on federal health insurance subsidies have any bearing in Massachusetts?

It appears unlikely, even though the state has left open the possibility of joining the federal insurance marketplace.

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If the Massachusetts Health Connector does go that route, it would still be considered a state-based exchange, but one supported by the federal government — and it’s not clear whether the rulings would apply.

State officials have said the Connector would link to if the state’s site isn’t working properly, but if that happens, it would be only for the year 2015. And the legal wrangling over Tuesday’s rulings will most likely continue longer than that.

One of the federal Appeals Court rulings says that only people using state-based health insurance exchanges can obtain federal subsidies to lower their premiums. The other says all exchanges, federal and state, can access the subsidies.

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Although Massachusetts has had a state-based exchange for years, the Connector’s attempt to re-tool its software to meet the terms of the Affordable Care Act was a dismal failure, and the website didn’t work properly when it opened in October.

To fix the problem, the Connector is pursuing a “dual-track” approach, rebuilding its own website with software by hCentive, while simultaneously preparing to join the federal website in case that fails.

“These rulings reinforce our commitment to remaining a state-based Marketplace that continues the Commonwealth’s nation-leading access to affordable, quality health insurance,” Connector spokesman Jason W. Lefferts said in a statement.

“While we review the decisions’ potential impact, we will continue our work on the dual track plan, which ensures that no matter what, we will have a working website this fall. We are making good progress on hCentive implementation, our preferred solution, and will make a final decision about which option to pursue for Fall Open Enrollment early next month.”

Felice J. Freyer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer
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