As attorney general of California, I have vigorously defended the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. This landmark law has brought much-needed reform and accountability to our health care system. And despite what you may have heard, it’s changed millions of lives for the better.
Thanks in large part to the health reform law, California’s uninsured rate fell by almost 40 percent in 2013, making our state healthier and more prosperous.
Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in King v. Burwell, a case that centers on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies. The issue is whether those subsidies are being lawfully provided in the 34 states that did not set up their own insurance marketplaces but allowed the federal government to create them instead. It’s a case with far-reaching ramifications, both nationally and in our state.
California is one of 16 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has its own, state-run health insurance marketplace. This should come as no surprise — California has long led the way in expanding access to affordable, quality health coverage. In fact, a number of Affordable Care Act provisions — for example, barring discrimination against children for pre-existing conditions — were already in place in California law. And so the more than 800,000 Californians who obtained coverage through Covered California, our marketplace, will retain their subsidies and their coverage regardless of the court’s decision.
But millions of other Americans may not be as lucky.
According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, ending subsidies on federally run marketplaces in these 34 states will lead to more than 9.3 million people losing nearly $29 billion in tax credits to help them purchase health insurance. The effect would be devastating for low- and moderate-income families relying on these subsidies, which average $3,090 a person. As many as 8.2 million people would be unable to afford their premium and most likely be forced to drop their coverage.
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