Statistics Spell Disaster if Health Care Tax Credits Denied

patient_payStatistics have a starring role in the debate over President Obama’s health care law, a debate that asks whether or not health insurance tax credits will be granted in at least 34 states that didn’t set up their own state-specific health insurance exchanges.

Some say they should not be granted, as that’s what the law clearly states. Others say the law should be interpreted to mean that every state should receive the credits, including those that rely on the federal exchange, or disaster would surely ensue. 

Disaster by the Numbers 

Proponents grabbed onto studies by the Robert Wood Foundation, the Urban Institute and RAND, USA Today reports, pulling out stats to bolster their argument.

  • More than 8 million: Number of people who could become uninsured if the law is not upheld.
  • 87: Percentage of health care insurance enrollees qualified to receive tax credits in states still relying on the federal exchanges.
  • 6 million: Number of people who would no longer benefit from premiums priced at less than $100 per month.
  • 9,800: Number of “additional deaths” likely to result from preventable causes every year if those 8 million-plus people lose their health insurance.
  • 4: Percentage of income it currently costs the poor for a family health insurance policy.
  • 50: Percentage of income a family health insurance policy may cost the poor if tax credits don’t come through.
  • $1,500: Expected increase in the average annual premiums in the individual market, an increase pegged at 35 to 47 percent.

Out of those predicted to potentially lose health insurance coverage:

  • 80: Percentage that works part-time or full-time
  • 40: Percentage aged 45 to 64

What the Opponents Say

Those who oppose the tax credit payouts say the situation paves the way to make beneficial changes. A Consumers’ Research brief notes that numerous adjustments could be made to decrease or altogether eliminate the drastic impact the proponents predict.

One, of course, is for the states relying on federal exchange to set up their state exchanges. But that requires time and approval from the governor and state legislatures. A contingency plan may be in the works by Senate Republicans, although no details have been released on what that plan may be.

The Bottom Line

While the statistics may present a case worthy of swaying emotions, they are not predicted to sway the final decision of the nine Supreme Court justices who will rule on the law in March. As noted by USA Today, their job is “to interpret the law, not pass judgment on public policy.”

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