Public says don't kill Obamacare subsidies in 34 states

The Supreme Court kept quiet Monday on the future of Obamacare—but other people spoke up loudly.

Two new polls show strong public support for the high court maintaining financial aid that helps people in 34 states buy health coverage through the federal Obamacare marketplace.

The Supreme Court is considering a case that would limit those often-generous subsidies to customers of exchanges in the 16 states and the District of Columbia that elected to run their own online insurance marketplaces.

About 6.4 million people in the HealthCare.gov states receive an average federal tax credit of $272 per month to offset the cost of their monthly insurance premiums.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington.
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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington.

The first survey, from Public Policy Polling, found that 61 percent of Americans believe that everyone in the U.S. at similar income levels should be able to get Obamacare subsidies regardless of where they live.

Support for that idea was strongest among Democrats, at 74 percent. But even a plurality of Republicans favored keeping subsidies for HealthCare.gov customers—49 percent in support, and 41 percent opposing the idea.

A total of 62 percent of people surveyed by Public Policy Polling favored the Republican-led Congress taking action to continue HealthCare.gov subsidies if the Supreme Court rules they are illegal.

The poll also found that a similar percentage of voters would be more likely to vote for an elected official who worked to maintain the subsidies.

Public Policy questioned 530 registered voters for the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent. The poll was done on behalf of the progressive group Americans United for Change, which supports Obamacare.

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But the other survey, a Washington Post-ABC News poll, had similar findings. In that poll, 55 percent of respondents said the Supreme Court should not end the HealthCare.gov subsidies, while 38 percent said that aid should be ended.

However, The Washington Post poll also found that a majority of Republicans, 55 percent, favored ending the subsidies.

The survey showed that despite the overall support for keeping the HealthCare.gov financial aid intact for eligible customers, a majority of 54 percent oppose the Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law that authorizes both the insurance marketplaces and the federal subsidies that help most of their customers purchase health coverage.

The Washington Post noted that level of opposition, which is 6 percentage points higher than a year ago, is the "among the worst" level of support for Obamacare in the poll's history. The survey questioned 1,001 adults, and had a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent.

The polls came as Obamacare observers monitored the Supreme Court for a decision in King v. Burwell, the case involving the subsidies. The high court, which did not act on the case in its sole opinion released Monday, is expected to rule on King v. Burwell by the end of June.

Plaintiffs in the case argue that the ACA only explicitly authorizes financial aid to low- and moderate-income people in states that set up their own insurance exchanges, and not to a federally run marketplace such as HealthCare.gov.

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President Barack Obama, speaking in Germany at the G-7 summit of leading economic powers Monday, scoffed at the fact that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear arguments in the case, instead of allowing the ACA to work as it currently does.

"There is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case," Obama said.

"This should be an easy case. ... Frankly, it probably shouldn't have even been taken up."