Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Florida advocates warn of dire consequences if Supreme Court rules against ACA

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Next Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, with the fate of millions of Americans access to health care through the Affordable Care Act at stake.

At issue is whether the law’s language allows the government to help middle-income people buy insurance everywhere in the country — or only in states that have set up their own insurance marketplaces. If the court rules for the plaintiffs, nearly a million residents in Florida could become uninsured in 2016. That’s because, like in 37 other states, the state Legislature has opted not to create its own health care exchange.

“This ruling would cause chaos and strip coverage for millions of Americans,” said Michele Jawando, Vice President for Legal Progress with the Center for American Progress in Washington. The D.C. based think tank hosted a conference call this morning for Florida reporters to sell the case that if the court rules against the Obama administration, it would be an unmitigated disaster. According to one projection, more than 8 million residents nationally would become uninsured if the high court rules for the plaintiffs in the case.

Jawando says the reason why the case has even made in the legal process is simple. “This case is part of a longstanding effort to repeal by any means.”

Certainly the Republican Party has never accepted the fact that the ACA is the law of the land. But its supporters say that it will be too difficult to unravel the benefits that millions of people have begun to enjoy. Whether that’s true or not is debatable, but what isn’t is that a lot of people would be affected.

There are nearly 1.3 million Floridians who have gained coverage through the federal marketplace, and 93 percent of those enrollees have received financial assistance. According to the Urban Institute, 1,073,000 would be unable to afford their health care coverage and would go back on the uninsured rolls if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the plaintiffs in the King v. Burwell case.

“The ACA is saving lives in this state,” said Leah Barber-Heinz, CEO with Florida CHAIN, a health care advocacy group that has championed the ACA. She said the law is working n Florida, saying that the uninsured rate in the Sunshine State has dropped to 3.2 percent.

“Since the ACA became the law of the land, the relief, the change in my life of being able to live without fear,” said Celia Maluf, a self-employed fitness instructor from Miami to describe her current situation.. “That represents something that is difficult to translate into words.” She said she was looking at paying $900 in monthly premiums after she left working for Continental Airlines a few years, and is grateful to be able to afford government health care.

Advocates say that from the beginning of 2013 to mid-2014, the uninsured rate in Florida dropped 3.2 percentage points, from 22.1 percent to 18.9 percent.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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