Although the industry anxiously awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of providing subsidies to people buying health insurance through the federal marketplace, few Americans have heard of the case that is set to go before the high court in March. Once informed, however, most believe Congress should step in to fill the gaps if the subsidies are ruled unconstitutional.

More than half of the public (56%) say in a non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation poll that they have heard nothing at all about the case, King v. Burwell, while 3-in-10 have heard only a little.

Also see: 5 states with the lowest insurance costs if subsidies are lost

If the Supreme Court rules financial assistance is only available in states with state-run marketplaces, nearly two-thirds of the public (64%) say Congress should take action to make subsidies available to help people purchase health insurance, according to the poll conducted Jan. 15-21 of 1,503 adults living in in the United States.

If Congress were not to take action, more than half of those surveyed (59%) believe states should run their own exchanges, as the case only revolves around subsides on the federal marketplace, which includes Healthcare.gov.

Also see: 5 states with the highest insurance costs if subsidies are lost

These findings present an initial reaction that may change as more people learn about the case, says Bianca DiJulio, associate director of public opinion and survey research program at Kaiser. Since nearly half surveyed say they have not heard about the case, it is not high on the public radar. DiJulio explains the Kaiser Foundation wanted to see an initial reaction about what the public thought if the Supreme Court rules in favor of King and bans subsidies on the federal exchange.

Since it was presented as if low and moderate income people might lose access to a subsidy where they live, that “doesn’t sound like an appealing proposition to people,” she adds, and might explain why they think Congress or the states should step in. 

What’s next on ACA?

Polled further on the ACA, 32% surveyed by Kaiser would like Congress to repeal the law entirely, 14% want the law scaled back and 19% want it to move forward as is. An additional 23% say they want to see Congress expand the law, with opinion sharply divided by political party.

Additionally, when asked what will happen with the law in this Republican-led Congress, responses were nearly evenly split with the law undergoing a major (31%) or minor (32%) change. Just 12% believe it will be repealed entirely.

Since the law’s passage in March 2010, the favorability level of the ACA has held largely steady month-over-month, according to Kaiser. The most recent numbers, 46% viewing it as unfavorable and 40% as favorable, reflect only a 1% drop from December.

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