Sometime this month, the US Supreme Court will issue their opinion on whether the subsidies offered by the health exchanges set up by the federal government are consistent with the wording of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the official name of what has come to be better known as Obamacare). If they rule that they are not and invalidate the subsidies, this will result in tens of millions of people who now have affordable health insurance abruptly losing them. The elimination of the federal subsidies would be a serious, and some argue fatal, blow to Obamacare and thus on the surface Republicans should welcome an adverse Supreme Court opinion.
But it is beginning to dawn on Republicans that they have grabbed a tiger by the tail in the strong position they have taken that Obamacare is an absolute evil that needs to be totally abandoned. The problem is that as time has gone by, public opinion has shifted significantly in favor of keeping the subsidies, with a margin of 55 percent to 38 percent saying that they wanted the federal subsidies to remain, even as overall support for Obamacare remains low.
In addition, the states where the federal exchanges were set up were those controlled by Republicans who refused to set up state exchanges, so that most of the people affected by an adverse Supreme Court ruling would be people living in Republican-dominated states. So it should not be surprising that even in those states, people oppose blocking the subsidies by a margin of 53% to 40%.
I doubt that the Supreme Court will take these poll results into account when deciding but it does pose problems for Republicans. If the subsidies are struck down, there will be a clamor for the only action that could restore them, and that is for congress to explicitly authorize them. This would be a quick fix legislatively but a minefield politically since Republicans have gone to the mat on opposing this issue and their hardcore, Fox News bubbled-enclosed supporters will not tolerate it.