Most Americans Unaware Obamacare Subsidies Are At Risk

Despite months of news coverage, most people say they have heard little or nothing about a Supreme Court case that could eliminate subsidies helping millions of Americans afford coverage under the federal health law, according to a poll released Thursday.

But when respondents were told about the case, King v. Burwell, about two-thirds said that if the court strikes down the subsidies, then Congress or state officials should step in to restore them, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Majorities of Democrats (81 percent) and independents (67 percent) favor congressional action, while Republicans (56 percent) prefer Congress not act on the issue (with 39 percent favoring action). Over half of respondents said they were not confident Democrats and Republicans in Congress could work together on the issue.

The justices on March 4 heard arguments in the case that will decide whether the Affordable Care Act makes the subsidies available in all states, or just to people buying coverage through state-run insurance marketplaces. Residents of about three dozen states rely on the federal exchange. If subsidies are eliminated on plans purchased through the federal exchange, more than 9 million people could lose the financial help that dramatically reduces the cost of their coverage, according to an Urban Institute study.

But 53 percent of respondents said they have never heard of the case and another 25 percent said they had heard only a little.

Many people may also be in for a surprise when they do their taxes: only 53 percent know they are required to report whether they have health coverage. Those who don’t could face a fine of 1 percent of their income, or $95, whichever is greater.

There was some good news for the Obama administration: 41 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the health law, the highest proportion since 2012. Meanwhile, 43 percent held an unfavorable view. That is the narrowest split since fall 2012. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

The poll of 1,503 adults, conducted between March 6 and 12, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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