Governors Unprepared for Upcoming Obamacare Ruling

February 23, 2015

The Supreme Court this June could cut off millions of Americans from affordable Obamacare coverage. The response from the nation’s governors gathering in Washington this week was an assortment of shrugs.

POLITICO interviewed more than a dozen governors, from both parties, this weekend at the National Governors Association winter meeting. Most said they’re in a wait-and-see zone. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week, the decision is likely in late June and no one can foretell how the court will rule on its second major case that could strike at the heart of the president’s signature health law.

For some Republican governors it was a shrug of indifference. They say the onus falls on President Barack Obama and Congress to figure out what to do if the Supreme Court invalidates Affordable Care Act subsidies in their states. And if Obamacare falls apart, well, they say, good riddance.

For others — among them potential 2016 contenders Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio — it’s a shrug of uncertainty. Wisconsin’s own state health program for certain low-income people relies on the federal exchange, and Walker called for the feds to come up with at least a short-term fix. Kasich says he’s working on contingency plans to protect people in his state, but he hasn’t said what that would look like, or how he’d pay for it.

The Obamacare opponents behind King argue that subsidies are illegal in 34 states using HealthCare.gov instead of running their own insurance exchanges. A ruling against the White House could abruptly halt financial assistance to roughly seven million of the people who signed up through the federal exchange this year.

Governors are largely on the sidelines of the subsidy fight — but in the center of the 2016 map. Administration allies doing Obamacare outreach worked hard to sign up millions of people in states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the classic presidential battlegrounds, and homes to some of the likely contenders. If the White House loses in the Supreme Court, the consequences would play out amid the intensity of a presidential election, and in swing states that will host some of 2016’s most competitive Senate and gubernatorial races.

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