With a Supreme Court ruling on the King v Burwell case looming, the GOP has no contingency plan to help the nearly 6.5 million Americans in 34 states who will be hurt by a potential court decision eliminating the federal subsidies, made available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At first blush, a Supreme Court ruling that strikes at the heart of Obamacare would seem like a clear Republican victory.
However, because such a ruling would have a profound impact on a number of crucial battleground states in 2016, the ruling could create a backlash against Republicans in states necessary to win the 2016 presidential election. Also, many of the state’s that would be most affected by an end to federal Obamacare subsidies are also states with key races for control of the U.S. Senate. Ironically, Republicans who have spent the past half-decade trying to repeal Obamacare, may soon discover that a Supreme Court decision in their favor will prove a Pyrrhic victory that costs them control of the U.S. Senate.
For example, the state that stands to lose the most from an end to tax credits made available by the federal exchange is Florida. 1.488 million Florida residents benefit from the Obamacare federal exchange subsidies, with their average annual tax credit adding up to over 3500 dollars per person. Ironically, the nation’s most Obamacare dependent city is the Republican working class Miami suburb of Hialeah, Florida, where 37 percent of city residents were uninsured before Obamacare passed, and roughly another 37 percent were subsidized by public insurance through Medicare or Medicaid.
If the Supreme Court ends the federal exchange subsidies, not all voters will blame the GOP for taking away their affordable health care coverage. However, if even a small percentage of the 1.488 million Floridians assign blame where it belongs, the Republicans will have virtually no chance of holding onto the Senate seat being vacated by GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.
Florida would be the biggest loser if the Supreme Court nixes the federal exchanges, but it is not the only state with a pivotal Senate race that would lose big. 10 of the 14 states that stand the most to lose if Obamacare subsidies are gutted by the Supreme Court are states where Republicans must defend a Senate seat in 2016. If the Supreme Court elects to pull the subsidies from millions of Americans, the backlash could have a direct impact on vulnerable incumbent Senators in several of those states.
Pat Toomey (PA), Ron Johnson (WI), Mark Kirk (IL), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Burr (NC) seem particularly vulnerable, and each of them represent states that are among those that stand the most to lose if the federal exchanges are ended.
The irony that a conservative Supreme Court ruling could have the unintended consequence of throwing Republicans out as the majority party in the U.S. Senate, only underscores the additional irony that it is Republican voters who are Obamacare’s prime beneficiaries. While GOP voters may be critical of Obamacare because they fail to understand it, they are disproportionately helped by the program.
An Urban Institute study on who would lose insurance if the Supreme Court declares the federal tax credits illegal, found that white lower and middle-income Southerners would be the biggest losers if the Obamacare subsidies are eliminated. At some level, this GOP-leaning bloc of voters will have only themselves to blame. However, because Republicans cannot even afford to lose a handful of these voters in Senate battleground states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, the right-wing Roberts Supreme Court could end up ironically becoming the Republican Party’s worst enemy.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.