The stakes are getting higher in the looming Supreme Court case that threatens to rip apart the president’s health care law.
A new Gallup poll released today shows that Obamacare’s provisions are largely responsible for driving America’s uninsured rate down to a 7-year-low—further illustrating how serious an adverse ruling could be for millions of people who currently have coverage under the law.
According to Gallup, the uninsured rate dropped from 17.3 to 12.9 percent in 2014, with tens of millions of people gaining health coverage through Obamacare’s health exchanges as well as the law’s Medicaid expansion. Changes in state uninsured rates were especially dramatic in states that have embraced the health care law more than others, including setting up their own Obamacare exchange, and expanding their Medicaid programs, according to the survey.
The latest poll comes just one week before the Court begins hearing oral arguments in the now infamous King v. Burwell, which could have a major impact on the health care law and the millions of people who now have coverage because of it.
The entire case centers on whether a phrase in the law’s language provides subsidized coverage for Obamacare enrollees in the 37 states that rely on the federal exchange. Plaintiffs in the case charge that the law only mentions subsidies for people enrolled in states that set up their own exchanges. They say that the administration intentionally didn’t mention the federal exchange to incentive states to set up their own.
If the Court sides with the plaintiffs, at least 8 million enrolled through the federal exchange will lose their subsidized coverage. This could cause a ripple effect throughout the entire health system, causing millions more to lose their health coverage. The Urban Institute estimated that even hundreds of thousands with employer-based plans could lose their coverage---reversing all of the work the law has done to drive down the uninsured rate.
However, a Supreme Court ruling against the administration doesn’t necessarily seal Obamacare’s fate. There are a number of ways the federal subsidies could be restored to these people. For example, Congress could vote to amend the law’s language to specify that subsidies are also available to federal exchange enrollees. Sen. Orin Hatch told reporters on Monday that he’s working on a temporary fix in the event that the Court strikes down the subsidies.
That option is highly unlikely as lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress have already signaled that it won’t be voting to throw a life raft to Obamacare—a law they’ve spent the last five years trying to repeal.
Instead, Republicans say they are preparing an Obamacare replacement in the event that the Court sides with the plaintiff.
Another option would be for states to individually set up their own exchanges if they haven’t done so already. This option, however, is already off the table for at least five Republican governors including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who staunchly oppose the president’s health care law.
The administration, meanwhile, issued a letter on Tuesday admitting that it has no contingency plan in the event of an adverse Court ruling.
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