Nearly 8 million Americans could lose subsidies that help them afford Obamacare plans if the Supreme Court strikes down the administration’s interpretation the 2010 law, according to data released Tuesday.
The Health and Human Services Department says roughly 7.7 million people in 37 states received tax credits to offset the cost of plans from HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance portal for states that did not set up their own health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
The taxpayer-funded subsidies had an average monthly value of $263 per person, meaning the government would pay out roughly $24 billion for the year when multiplied across the current number of enrollees.
“The figures released today tell a story of health coverage consumers rely on for financial and health security — and of coverage they don’t want to lose,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said. “Millions of marketplace consumers in HealthCare.gov states qualified for tax credits to make their coverage affordable and accessible.”
The justices last week heard oral arguments in the case known as King v. Burwell, with challengers saying the administration is breaking the law by paying the subsidies to customers in states that rely on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange. The law says subsidies can be paid to customers in exchanges “established by the state.”
If the court rules against the administration, customers in two-thirds of the states would be cut off from subsidies, which would create a crisis for both Congress and the White House.
Nearly 1.5 million people in Florida would lose monthly subsidies that average $294 per person, more than 1 million in Texas would lose subsidies averaging $239 and more than 515,000 in North Carolina would forfeit assistance worth $310.
The administration said it has no fix for the “massive damage” that would result in affected states.
Republican lawmakers are hoping to fill the void with a patchwork of proposals that freeze health coverage and financial assistance in place for Americans affected by the ruling, but only for a limited time as the GOP forges a replacement to Obamacare ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
HHS released the subsidy stats as part of an official enrollment report on signups through Feb. 22 — the cutoff date for people to finish up applications they started on HealthCare.gov by Feb. 15, the formal closing date for the 2015 enrollment season that began in mid-November.
All told, nearly 11.7 million people signed up for coverage on HealthCare.gov or exchanges set up by 13 states and the District of Columbia.
If unclear how many of them will effectuate their coverage by paying their premiums, and uninsured American subject to a penalty for lacking insurance can still sign up between March 15 and April 30.
The administration had predicted that 9.1 million Americans would maintain their coverage in 2015.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
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