Major Stakes for 37,000 Anticipating Supreme Court Decision

By Mike Clifford, Public News Service – NH

CONCORD, N.H. – The nation’s highest court heard an historic case this week about health coverage, and tens of thousands of Granite Staters have a major stake in the outcome.

At issue is whether federal subsidies for Affordable Care Act coverage in New Hampshire and other states are illegal, because those states did not set up an exchange.

Before the law extended coverage, said Dr. Travis Harker, a family physician in Concord, about 20 percent of his patients were poverty cases who got office visits but often could not afford the cost of their treatment.

“And now they’ve just started to get their health under control,” he said, “and if they are unable to afford it because the insurance gets pulled from them, they are going to go back to what they did before – not come into a doctor, not get the medications they need.”

Opponents of the Act argue that subsidies are only legal in states that set up their own exchange. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the King vs. Burwell case in June or July.

Zandra Rice-Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, said a ruling against the Affordable Care Act would amount to a 74 percent health-care cost hike on the citizens of New Hampshire. She said lawmakers don’t need to wait on the Supreme Court.

“New Hampshire could authorize the state to take over the federally facilitated exchange we currently have,” she said, “so that is certainly a political option before us and one that we would encourage politicians to look at.”

Harker, past-president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, said a ruling against the act will impact more than just his patients.

“And suffer the consequences from it,” he said, “and it’s going to end up costing everyone more money, because they’ll end up in the emergency room with a severe problem, like a heart attack or a stroke – whereas if they’d been able to get in to their doctor, we could have prevented this problem.”

In all, 53,000 people in the Granite State signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act and 37,000 got coverage with the help of federal tax credits. – See more at: