Raising the Stakes for Health Care

Another successful enrollment report underscores the importance of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling.

Another Successful Enrollment Report Underscores Importance Of Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling

More than 10.2 million people purchased insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act in the most recent sign-up period, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday. That number beats the 2015 goal of 9.1 million enrollees previously set by the Obama administration.

The millions of people enrolling and re-enrolling in plans through the insurance exchanges highlights once again that the ACA is working to deliver quality, affordable health care to those who need it. But it also serves as a stark reminder of the stakes surrounding the ruling in King v. Burwell that the Supreme Court is expected to hand down later this month.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers from the latest successful enrollment report, and what could happen if at least five Supreme Court Justices ignore the overwhelming evidence and strike down insurance subsidies for individuals on the federal exchange.

  • 10.2 million: The number of Americans who have enrolled in quality, affordable coverage through the ACA’s marketplaces.
  • 85 percent: The percentage of all enrollees receiving tax credits for their insurance premiums — 8.7 million people.
  • 87 percent: The percentage of enrollees in the 34 states with federally-facilitated marketplaces receiving premium tax credits — 6.4 million people.
  • $272: The average monthly tax credit for the 6.4 million enrollees in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces.
  • 287 percent: The percent increase in enrollees’ average premium if the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell.

There are 6.4 million Americans who get insurance through HealthCare.gov (instead of a state-run marketplace) and qualify for tax subsidies to help them afford their coverage. Those people receive an average of $272 per month, scaled according to their income, to help them pay. A bad decision in King v. Burwell would remove that subsidy, almost tripling their premiums on average (for some, premiums could spike more than six times the amount they currently pay. A huge number of these people, no longer able to afford coverage, would become uninsured.

But they wouldn’t be the only ones affected. Such a shock to the marketplace would ricochet out and put the entire health insurance system into chaos, causing millions of others to see premiums increase and force health insurance to become unaffordable. All told, according to several studies, more than 8 million people would become uninsured and nearly 10,000 preventable deaths would occur each year.

Couldn’t Congress step in and help correct a terrible Supreme Court decision? That would be the responsible course of action, but we aren’t betting on it. With more than 50 votes to repeal the law, Republican Congressional leaders have been destructive, not constructive. And while conservatives continue to promise a “replacement” plan for the Affordable Care Act, they haven’t proposed any credible alternatives — all of them take us back to the broken system we had before. There’s no reason to expect that to change.

BOTTOM LINE: While we should all cheer another strong enrollment report showcasing the success of the Affordable Care Act, the stakes are only rising for the potential effects of a negative decision in King v. Burwell. Insurance coverage for millions of people hangs in the balance, and the Republican Congress is not offering any serious solutions for them if the Supreme Court chooses ideology over the facts.

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