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Supreme Court will decide whether to end Obamacare subsidies for 6.4 million Americans

Vox.com logo Vox.com 6/3/2015 Sarah Kliff
Demonstrator Nell Robinson, a medical student from George Washington University, holds a sign in favor of to U.S. President Barack Obama's health-care law, Obamacare, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Demonstrator Nell Robinson, a medical student from George Washington University, holds a sign in favor of to U.S. President Barack Obama's health-care law, Obamacare, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

Approximately 6.4 million Americans could lose Obamacare subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the health law this month.

The Obama administration released new data Tuesday detailing how many people signed up through the health law's marketplaces this year. The data shows that in total, 10.2 million people had signed up and paid for plans as of March 2015.

Of those, 7.5 million had purchased coverage through Healthcare.gov, the federally run marketplace. Of thosepeople, 6.4 million are getting a federal subsidy to help cover their Obamacare premium. On average, they are getting $272 each month to help cover their premiums.

These subsidies are at the heart of the Supreme Court case against Obamacare. In King v. Burwell, the challengers argue that the federal marketplace does not have the authority to distribute financial help. So if that case goes against Obamacare, there are 6.4 million people who will lose these subsidies.

Without subsidies, private insurance will become unaffordable for millions of Americans. Separate analysis shows that without the subsidies, premiums would jump 256 percent. Healthy people would likely drop their coverage, and only the people who are very sick — and therefore very expensive to insure — would keep their plans.

This sets up the classic insurance "death spiral." By putting coverage out of financial reach for so many people, it would undermine the entire purpose of the Affordable Care Act.

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