Ma­jor­ity polled fa­vor Oba­macare aid

Nearly two-thirds want to en­sure that res­i­dents of any state can get sub­si­dies, a sur­vey finds.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Noam N. Levey noam.levey@latimes.com Twit­ter: @noam­levey

WASHINGTON — Nearly two-thirds of Amer­i­cans want Congress to en­sure that res­i­dents in ev­ery state can re­ceive in­sur­ance sub­si­dies though the Af­ford­able Care Act, ac­cord­ing to a new na­tional poll con­ducted as the Supreme Court pre­pares to de­cide a le­gal chal­lenge that could strip away the sub­si­dies in more than 30 states.

Asked whether law­mak­ers should pass a law “so that peo­ple in all states can be el­i­gi­ble for fi­nan­cial help,” just one-quar­ter of those sur­veyed said no, ac­cord­ing to the poll by the non­profit Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

The le­gal chal­lenge, brought by con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists, ar­gues that a strict read­ing of the health statute makes sub­si­dies avail­able only in states that es­tab­lished their own in­sur­ance mar­ket­places through the law, some­thing that just 13 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia did.

The rest of the states rely on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to op­er­ate all or part of the mar­ket­place for them.

The mar­ket­places — which opened in 2013 and now cover about 10 mil­lion peo­ple — al­low Amer­i­cans who don’t get health ben­e­fits at work to shop online among plans that must of­fer ba­sic ben­e­fits and can­not turn away cus­tomers, even if they are sick.

Con­sumers mak­ing less than four times the fed­eral poverty level — about $47,000 for a sin­gle adult and $97,000 for a fam­ily of four — qual­ify for sub­si­dies.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the law’s con­gres­sional ar­chi­tects and many out­side le­gal ex­perts say the law was clearly in­tended to make the sub­si­dies avail­able ev­ery­where.

If the court backs the chal­lengers, more than 6 mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to be­come unin­sured, throw­ing in­sur­ance mar­kets in dozens of states into chaos.

The jus­tices are ex­pected to rule on the case by the end of this month. If they side with the chal­lengers, Congress could pre­serve the sub­si­dies with a one-page bill clar­i­fy­ing that aid is avail­able in all states, a so­lu­tion that Pres­i­dent Obama has in­di­cated he would re­quest.

But con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have said they won’t go along with that un­less the pres­i­dent agrees to ma­jor changes in the health law, prob­a­bly set­ting up a high-stakes po­lit­i­cal strug­gle in Washington.

Any ex­tended stale­mate in Washington would put pres­sure on states to un­der­take the po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive and com­pli­cated task of set­ting up their own mar­ket­places to re­tain their res­i­dents’ ac­cess to sub­si­dies.

Just two states — Delaware and Penn­syl­va­nia — have made plans to do that. On Mon­day, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­di­cated it would sup­port the states’ pro­pos­als.

Fifty-five per­cent of res­i­dents of states that cur­rently rely on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment fa­vor that move, the Kaiser poll found; 32% say the state should not cre­ate its own mar­ket­place.

State ac­tion is pre­ferred even by Repub­li­cans, who fa­vor a state mar­ket­place over no ac­tion, 44% to 42%, de­spite the fact that the health law re­mains deeply un­pop­u­lar with the GOP. Nearly 70% of Repub­li­cans view it un­fa­vor­ably.

Over­all public opin­ion about the health law re­mains closely di­vided, with 42% of Amer­i­cans hold­ing a neg­a­tive view and 39% hold­ing a pos­i­tive view.

The Kaiser track­ing poll of 1,200 adults na­tion­wide was con­ducted June 2-9 and has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus 3 per­cent­age points; the mar­gin is higher for ques­tions based on sub­groups.

An­drew Harnik As­so­ci­ated Press

OUT­SIDE the Supreme Court, Ayru Crymef of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union protests in March over the loss of healthcare ben­e­fits.

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