As the Supreme Court weighs an argument that would hinder the ability of the federal health insurance marketplace to operate in 34 states, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has proposed a plan that he says could help millions of Americans adjust to higher insurance costs after the court’s final ruling. His prescription is the third conservative-led proposal to emerge in recent months as Democrats have criticized Republicans for opposing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but failing to offer any better solutions for improving Americans’ access to affordable health insurance.
By offering his plan, Rubio challenges those criticisms and aims to ease Americans' fears about what the potential outcome of a high-stakes Supreme Court case might mean for their monthly health insurance payments. This summer, the court’s justices are expected to decide whether the Affordable Care Act allows the federal government to offer subsidies for health insurance purchased through federally run health insurance exchanges, in a case known as King v. Burwell. The plaintiffs argue that the subsidies should be available only to residents in states where exchanges are run by the state government. A ruling in their favor likely would increase the cost of health insurance for 8 million Americans in 34 states who purchase it through exchanges operated by the federal government, as reported by FactCheck.org.
The vast majority -- 87 percent – of people who signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov last year were eligible for subsidies that reduced the cost of their premium by 76 percent. That amounted to an average savings of $346 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In his plan, Rubio first wants to offer a tax credit to Americans who stand to see a sharp spike in the price of their coverage after the loss of these subsidies. He says the value of the credit would rival those credits that many Americans already earn through participating in employer-based plans. Rubio presented his case in an op-ed piece posted to Fox News on Monday.
Rubio also thinks the federal government should cover insurance for Americans with pre-existing conditions who have traditionally been excluded from private plans because their treatments and medicines are too expensive. Lastly, he calls for reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, including spending caps for every patient that Medicaid serves and allowing seniors to purchase their own plans from private insurers rather than providing coverage through Medicare.
Rubio, who is considering a run for president in 2016, outlined his approach on the fifth anniversary of the day that President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. His plan also was published on the same day that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his candidacy, becoming the first official conservative contender in the 2016 race.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., another potential 2016 candidate, also has put forth a plan for health care reform that would give tax credits to residents of states who lose their federal subsidies, as reported by the Hill, and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has suggested extending coverage for 18 months to those who otherwise may lose it in the Supreme Court’s ruling.