Released Thursday, a new poll from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation had some very revealing outcomes. This is the latest installment in its survey series known to track public opinion since the inception of the health care overhaul. The poll asked Americans their opinions regarding King vs. Burwell, a case currently being argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.
With a decision due by summer in the Supreme Court case that could unravel President Barack Obama’s health care law, the new poll found that many Americans have heard nothing about the case. When the potential fallout of negative decision is explained, most say it would hurt the country and they would look to Congress or the individual states to fix it.
“The public is not making a legal judgment,” noted Drew Altman, CEO of the foundation, an information clearinghouse on the health care system. “When it’s explained to them that some people will only be able to get help depending on whether the state or the federal government runs the marketplace, it does not seem fair to people. It does not make sense to the majority.”
Even after recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court received national media attention, 53 percent said they were unfamiliar with the case. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act say its precise wording allows the government to subsidize coverage only in states that set up their own insurance markets or exchanges. Most have not done so, deferring to the federal HealthCare.gov.
When people were asked about the potential consequences of a Supreme Court ruling that would restrict financial help only to those states operating their own insurance markets, 62 percent stated that would have a negative impact on the country. It meant a return to the time before the Affordable Care Act when only group health insurance could mitigate the issue of getting coverage to meet pre-existing conditions.
The Affordable Care Act offers subsidized private insurance to people who don’t have access to it on the job, plus expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income adults in states that accept it. While the wording of specific provisions in the law may be confusing, its supporters say the clear intent was to provide benefits in all states.
At this time, no one knows how the court will rule. It may side with the Obama administration, or it could strike down subsidies currently being received by more than 8 million people. The outcome seems to hinge on the votes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. While Kennedy asked sharp questions of both sides during oral arguments, Roberts said little. Kennedy voted against the law in the 2012 case challenging its constitutionality. Roberts provided the key vote to uphold it.
Should the Supreme Court invalidate subsidies for people in some three-dozen federal marketplace states, most poll respondents (65 percent) were adamant that Congress should then pass a law to include residents of all states as eligible for financial assistance. Unfortunately current partisan divisions foreshadow problems passing such a law. While 81 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents favor a congressional fix, 56 percent of Republicans oppose rescuing what many call ‘Obamacare’.
If the court rules for the law’s opponents and against the Obama administration, “Democrats are likely to have the public on their side,” Altman said. “They’ll be making a fairness argument … and the poll does show the public views this as a fairness question.” On the other hand, Altman pointed out that Republicans “will have cards to play” because the highest court in the land will have just discredited the law.
When people in the potentially affected states were asked how their governors and state legislators should respond should a vote be against the Obama administration, 69 percent indicated that their individual states should create markets so residents could keep receiving help, a view that cut across party lines.
The telephone poll, conducted from March 6-12, included a nationally representative random sample of 1,503 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. The Supreme Court heard arguments in this case on March 4.
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Release ID: 78306