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How King v. Burwell Threatens the Health and Financial Stability of Consumers

By Ron Pollack,


In mid-to-late June, the Supreme Court will announce its ruling inKing v. Burwell, the case that threatens to take away financial assistance (premium tax credits) that help people afford their health insurance in 34 states. Learn more about King v. Burwell.

As we draw nearer to a decision from the Supreme Court, my mind is focused on the millions of people who have the most to lose in this case. One of the oddities about King v. Burwell is that the people who have the biggest stake in its outcome are not parties to the litigation. This is because there are only two sets of parties to the lawsuit: opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), who wish to derail its implementation, and the government that is implementing the law. For this reason, we at Families USA have sought to amplify the voices of those who could be most adversely affected by the decision.

In the final countdown to the Supreme Court’s decision, 6.4 million consumers have the most to lose in King v. Burwell

If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs who brought the case, an estimated 6.4 million moderate-income people would lose premium tax credits. Without these subsidies, many people will simply be unable to afford to purchase health insurance.

Additionally, for people who somehow continue to purchase coverage, the premiums would skyrocket. This is because younger, healthier people would be most likely to drop coverage while older, sicker people would do everything they can to retain it. As a result, premiums in the individual market would rise by 35 percent according to the Urban Institute.

As lawmakers consider strategies to mitigate the fallout from an adverse decision, it is crucial that the human dimension of this lawsuit is understood. That is why Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, has collected the stories of some of the people who have the most to lose if the court withdraws premium subsidies in the states where the federal government is operating health insurance marketplaces.

The people most adversely affected share the following characteristics:

  • They live in one of the 34 states with a health insurance marketplace run by the federal government. In these states, so far, almost 9 out of 10 people enrolled in health coverage through the marketplace are receiving premium tax credits to help pay for health insurance.
  • They are currently receiving significant premium tax credits, usually in the thousands of dollars per year, that make insurance affordable.
  • Most would be unable to afford health coverage if the tax credits are withdrawn, and they would re-join the ranks of the uninsured.
  • Many have such significant chronic health conditions that their lives are at risk if they can’t access needed health care.

Hear from consumers whose health and financial stability are threatened by King v. Burwell

In the days ahead, my Families USA colleagues and I anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope that the justices uphold the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credits to help ensure that all Americans, like those featured in the video above, can afford health insurance.