- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2015

More than half of Americans would like the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare’s subsidies in all 50 states, according to a poll released Monday that also finds only one in 10 people are quite confident the justices will decide a pivotal health case this June objectively.

The Associated Press-GfK poll says 56 percent want the justices to allow the IRS to continue subsidizing health plans on health exchanges run by the federal government.

The high court is weighing a challenge, known as King v. Burwell, that alleges the IRS is unlawfully distributing tax credits in at least 34 states because of how the Affordable Care Act was written.

A provision in the law provides the subsidies to exchanges “established by the state,” which plaintiffs interpret as the handful of states that set up their own portals.

Nearly four in 10 people — 39 percent — said the justices should restrict the subsidies to state-run exchanges, and 5 percent refused to answer.

Notably, 87 percent were not too confident or only moderately confident that the Supreme Court would based its ruling on an objective reading of the law, instead of personal opinions of the overhaul.

Only 13 percent said they are following the case extremely or very closely, with 60 percent not paying much attention at all.

If the subsidies are struck down, just over half (51 percent) would like Congress to update the law so that every state can retain federal assistance, while 44 percent said lawmakers should leave it up to states to decide if they want to set up an exchange and qualify for the subsidies.

The income-based tax credits helped nearly 9 out of every 10 exchange customers buy health coverage on the federal HealthCare.gov portal for the 2015 plan year. If the subsidies are struck down, those plans would become unaffordable for many, and insurance markets in affected states could head into a tailspin as healthier people drop coverage first.

Eyeing an opportunity to take down Obamacare, congressional Republicans are scrambling to come up with an Obamacare alternative or “off-ramp” from the 2010 law. But they’re also wary of political blowback from the administration and its Democratic allies, who will accuse the GOP of leaving uninsured Americans in the lurch.

A bill by Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, would throw a lifeline to those affected by the “King” decision by locking in their assistance through 2017 but without allowing new subsidized customers. It would scrap the law’s mandate requiring most Americans to hold insurance, which could hinder Obamacare’s fragile economics.

The legislation has 31 GOP co-sponsors.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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