The Supreme Court next month will take up a case that challenges the legality of Obamacare subsidies
, a central component of the federal healthcare program. If struck down, it could be a fatal blow for Obama's signature healthcare law, The Washington Post
The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell say that people who buy coverage on the federal healthcare exchange are not entitled to subsidies because the law states that financial aid is available for those who enroll through exchanges "established by the State."
The government argues that Congress clearly intended for the subsidies to help everyone enrolled in the program.
Without the subsidies, the law will likely unravel and the number of uninsured will skyrocket.
Some say the White House and Congress will develop a solution, while others predict that more states will choose to set up their own exchanges, adding to the 16 states that have already done so.
At the moment, 87 percent of people who have signed up through state exchanges are eligible for subsidies, with an average payment of $268 per month, lowering the premiums they pay by roughly 72 percent.
"If they're not going to participate in Obamacare and I'm not going to have these financial benefits, which will force me to pay $220 a month for coverage, do you know if Greg Abbott, our governor, has any plan to offer something comparable?" one Texas recipient of subsidies on Obamacare told the Post.
"I understand and support his efforts to put Washington back in its place," she said. "I just don’t want that to come at the cost of hard-working Texans and their ability to maintain medical coverage."
Many of those who receive the subsidies have full-time jobs, are white, and live in the South, the Post reported. The coverage is available to people with a certain lower-than-average threshold of income, who cannot receive insurance from their jobs, such as day-care aides, waiters, bartenders, and retail clerks, the Post said.
Specifically, to qualify, an individual must earn between $11,500 and $46,680 per year, while a family of four needs to earn between $25,850 and $95,400. Without the subsidy, which is paid directly by the government to insurance companies, many people would not be able to afford coverage.
If the Supreme Court prohibits people on the federal exchange from receiving subsidies, a central element of the law will be dismantled: the individual mandate which requires almost all Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty.
"You're left in a situation where insurers are lacking the carrot to help people afford health insurance and lacking the stick to get people to go buy it," Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Post.
Critics of the law and those supporting the lawsuit say that consumers would ultimately be better off without Obamacare, which, they say, undermines the entire healthcare system.
"This lawsuit highlights more evidence that Obamacare is a broken law that is bad for patients, doctors and taxpayers," John Wittman, a spokesman for Texas GOP Gov. Abbott, told the Post.
For Republicans, the lawsuit is a touchstone for debate about implementing alternatives to Obamacare, and a number of lawmakers have already proposed their own plans, the Post reported.
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