Nearly 900,000 Floridians could lose Obamacare tax subsidies under a new U.S. Supreme Court case, but state political leaders say they’re making no plans to deal with the potential fallout.
The court case — affecting as many as 4.7 million people in 37 states — revolves around a dispute over how the federal government provides tax credits to those who buy insurance plans in Obamacare marketplaces, which are called “exchanges.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, people get the tax credits if they bought insurance on exchanges “established by the State.” Florida and 36 other states didn’t set up an exchange. So they left it to the federal government, which then issued a rule saying residents in those states would get the subsidy-like tax credits anyway.
Conservatives sued, saying the decision by the Internal Revenue Service violated the strict letter of the law. If the tax credits are struck down in 37 states, Republicans hope it could lead to the “implosion” of Obamacare. Liberals and defenders of the Obama administration say the lawsuit is politically motivated and that it fails to consider the design and context of the ACA: to make everyone insured.
The states in question could make the controversy go away by establishing their own exchanges. But Florida and other conservative-led states want Obamacare to fail — and they’re content right now to leave this in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which leans Republican.
“I’d wait and see what happens. That’s down the road,” said Gov. Rick Scott, a phrase repeated by his fellow Republicans who lead the House and Senate in Tallahassee.
After Scott was first elected in 2010, Florida fought against the ACA by returning a $1million federal grant to establish a state-run exchange. Scott said the state should spend no money to implement Obamacare, which he calls an unconstitutional job-killer.
Florida has also refused to expand Medicaid, which could ultimately provide government-run healthcare to nearly 1million in a state with one of the highest uninsured rates, nearly 25 percent at one point.
The federal government has no statistics on the effects of Obamacare on Florida’s uninsured, but a Gallup survey indicated that the law is reducing the uninsured rate across the nation. States that set up their own exchanges and that expanded Medicaid saw the biggest drop in the uninsured rate, Gallup reported.
Florida lawmakers have time to decide what to do next.