|Augusta, ME – As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the King vs. Burwell case, consumers, providers and health care advocates across Maine continue to celebrate the success of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This ruling could take away the financial assistance that made it possible for many consumers to purchase health insurance for the first time. These tax credits have driven uninsured rates to record lows.
“The Affordable Care Act is working for Maine,” said Andrea Irwin, Legal and Policy Director for Consumers for Affordable Health Care, a member of the Steering Committee of the Health Care for Maine (HC4ME) Alliance. “Thanks to the ACA, more than 10 million people, including 74,792 in Maine, now have quality and affordable health coverage.”
At issue in the case is whether people in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces should be eligible for tax credits to help them pay for their health care premiums. The Supreme Court’s decision is important for Mainers – more than 67,000 Mainers benefit from this financial assistance.
“There is no legal basis for the Supreme Court to take away health coverage from millions of Americans,” continued Irwin. “When Congress wrote and passed the ACA, everybody – Republicans, Democrats and the Congressional Budget Office alike – agreed that the tax credits would be available in all states.”
One of those Mainers who risks losing subsidies is Erik, a 43-year old father of one from Augusta. He was uninsured for two years, but was able to get covered thanks to the ACA. He now pays $120 a month for coverage that allows him to get medical care, including the surgery he needed to treat his heart condition so he can continue to take care of his son and go to work.
“Maine’s physicians have witnessed firsthand how the ACA is helping Mainers get quality and affordable health care,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Vice President of the Maine Medical Association. “In order for Mainers to be healthy, they must have access to affordable quality coverage, which is made possible by the financial assistance available under the law,” continued Smith. “The tax credits the law provides to patients are a crucial piece of the puzzle. We have seen firsthand the consequences when patients delay or avoid trips to the doctor because they cannot afford it. Coverage has enabled health care professionals to better provide preventive care and ensure that Maine people are healthier.”
Hilary Schneider, State Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), whose national organization submitted an amicus brief with other patient advocacy organizations in support of the Administration, said “The ACA has been vitally important to providing health coverage to Maine cancer patients and increasing access to cancer screenings to improve the rate of early detection. With Mainers standing to lose an average of $4,150 in tax credits and cost-sharing reductions if the Court rules the wrong way – a total of $257 million, and an estimated 50,000 people being added to the number of uninsured, the stakes could not be higher.”
Open enrollment for 2015 ended on February 15, but some Maine consumers may still be able to sign up for health care coverage through a special enrollment period. People who experience a life change such as family size or employment status should visit Healthcare.gov to see if they qualify for special enrollment. To learn more about ACA tax credits and other health care benefits, or find a local navigator or certified assister, please visit www.enroll207.com or call the Consumers for Affordable Health Care HelpLine: 800-965-7476.
 Linda J. Blumberg, Matthew Buettgens, and John Holahan, “The Implications of a Supreme Court Finding for the Plaintiff in King vs. Burwell” (Washington: Urban Institute, 2015), available at http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/2000062-The-Implications-King-vs-Burwell.pdf