Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
GRAND RAPIDS March 4, 2015– The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over Obamacare subsidies today, and if they rule against the Obama administration, it could prove disastrous for millions of Americans, with over 300,000 Michiganders and 12,000 Kent County residents potentially losing health coverage.
The only counties in Michigan with more Obamacare enrollees than Kent are Wayne, Oakland, Macomb (metro Detroit) and Genesee (Flint).
The current debate over the law centers around whether or not the law requires states to establish exchanges themselves in order for their residents to be eligible for subsidies. Michigan is one of 34 states to use a federally-run exchange, which makes us vulnerable in this ruling.
The lawsuit was hatched by a group of conservative lawyers working with the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute as a way to bring down the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans currently control Lansing, and have made no indication that they would establish a state-run exchange to preserve residents’ health plans if subsidies go away.
That could mean more than 300,000 working men and women in Michigan could be affected. A major misconception of Obamacare is that it is an insurance plan for poor people; it’s actually a plan designed to help working families better afford insurance premiums. To be eligible for subsidies, a household needs to make between $11,670 and $127,880, depending on the number of people in the home.
After arguments were complete, Court observers note that the justices appear divided along ideological lines.
From USA Today:
During sometimes heated oral arguments, all four liberal justices hammered the law’s challengers, suggesting that the consequences of eliminating tax subsidies in federal health insurance exchanges would raise a serious constitutional problem.
But conservative justices shot back against the government’s lawyer, contending that the law clearly was written to exclude federal subsidies in states that did not create their own exchanges, or online marketplaces…
That appeared to leave the law in the hands of two hard-to-read justices: Chief Justice John Roberts…and [Anthony] Kennedy…
Many people, from industry organizations to consumers, are speaking out against this latest challenge.
From the Detroit News:
The Michigan Health & Hospital Association, which represents the state’s community hospitals, is concerned eliminating the subsidies would result in rising, unaffordable costs of coverage for those in the exchange.
“We are hopeful that the ultimate outcome — no matter the court’s decision — is that the 341,000 Michiganians who are enrolled today in private coverage through the exchange will be able to maintain that coverage,” said Ruthanne Sudderth, the association’s senior director for communications and strategic affairs.
Highland Park resident Vanita Johnson said she went without insurance for about three years after she was laid off in 2010. She had worked as public safety officer for 40 years, last serving at Kettering High School in Detroit.
Now a security officer at the College of Creative Studies, Johnson has health insurance through the Healthcare.gov marketplace but wouldn’t be able to afford the unsubsidized premiums, which she estimates would be around $400 a month for herself and her 21-year-old daughter. Johnson currently pays $102 a month toward her coverage, she said.
“Being without insurance causes anxiety, which is not healthy,” said Johnson, who spoke to a crowd of demonstrators outside the court.
“What I don’t understand is you’ve given us something, and now you want to snatch it back?”
A decision will not be announced by the Supreme Court until the end of their current session, probably in May or June.