I could lose my Obamacare subsidy

Supreme Court could kill my Obamacare subsidy
Supreme Court could kill my Obamacare subsidy

Obamacare could soon become unaffordable for millions of Americans.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether people who bought Obamacare insurance policies through the federal exchange can keep their subsidies. The challengers in the case, King v Burwell, argue that the law makes subsidies available only to people living in states that have established their own exchanges.

If the justices agree, some 6.4 million Americans living in the 34 states using the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, could see their subsidies disappear as soon as Aug. 1. The average subsidy comes to $272 a month, making it unlikely that many of the enrollees will be able to keep up their coverage, experts say.

The subsidies are very popular since they make sure low- and moderate-income Americans pay no more than about 9.5% of their income for coverage. Some 87% of those enrolled on the federal exchange receive them.

Gwen Jackson is one person who could no longer afford her Obamacare plan if the Supreme Court invalidates the subsidies. The Sugarland, Texas real estate broker already struggles to pay $888 a month for coverage for herself and her husband, Joe, but they couldn't do it without a $700 monthly subsidy.

Joe Jackson had a tumor removed from his jaw in 2013 and goes for follow-up visits to make sure it doesn't return. The couple doesn't want to return to the days when they were uninsured, which forced them to delay the surgery, causing Joe Jackson's jawbone to deteriorate.

"I know there's nothing else out there. I researched it," Gwen Jackson said. "We need to be covered. You never know when a medical event may occur. We are not young."

Eliminating the subsides could drive up costs for everyone on the individual insurance market, prompting even some enrollees without subsidies to drop their coverage. It's likely only the sickest Americans would retain their coverage, causing insurers to have to raise their rates.

The subsidies, along with the mandate that nearly all Americans have health insurance, has helped drive down the number of uninsured people.

Only 11.5% of Americans were uninsured in 2014, down from 16% in 2010, according to new federal data released this week. The declines were particularly pronounced among blacks, Hispanics and those close to or under the poverty line. They benefited both from the subsidies and the expansion of Medicaid in more than half of states.

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