Lisa Mae Parker of Parsonsfield was apprehensive about how the U.S. Supreme Court was going to rule on the tax subsidies allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Without the subsidy, she feared she’d have to give up her new home business to keep her medical coverage.

Her anxiety gave way to relief Thursday when the court upheld the national tax subsidies in President Obama’s national health care overhaul.

“I’m very excited,” Parker said. “I know a lot of people were nervous waiting to see what would happen.”

The justices said in a 6-3 ruling that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live. The outcome is a major victory for Obama in a high-profile, politically charged test of his signature policy achievement.

Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the 2010 law, including 8.7 million who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay insurance premiums. Of those, 6.4 million people – including more than 60,000 Mainers – were at risk of losing aid because they live in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.

After more than two decades of working in retail and grocery stores, Parker was finally able to quit her job last year and launch a home baking business because she got health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Before the ACA, she couldn’t afford the $800 monthly premium charged by insurance companies.

Since last year, Parker has paid less than $250 a month for health insurance. If the court had ruled against the federal subsidies, she said her ability to work from home would have ended because she’d be forced to buy health insurance for $1,000 a month through her husband’s company.

“We would have had to do it, but it probably would have meant me closing my business and getting back into the traditional workforce,” she said. “I’m aging and I try to take good care of myself, but things are tight.”


Nearly 90 percent of the 74,792 Mainers who have purchased health insurance during the two enrollment periods since the law went into effect receive some kind of subsidy. According to a national analysis by the Urban Institute, 80 percent of the adults who would have lost subsidies are working, 46.5 percent full time and 33.7 percent part time. The institute estimated that 73 percent of part-time workers would have become uninsured.

The same analysis estimated that 62,000 people in Maine would have lost an average of $4,150 in tax credits and cost-sharing reductions if the court had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. An estimated 50,000 Mainers would have become uninsured.

Legislators in Maine, one of 37 states that did not create its own state-run health exchange, supported a bill in the Insurance and Financial Services Committee that would have created a state-based insurance exchange in case the Supreme Court ruled against the ACA. The bill would have allowed Mainers buying individual insurance to continue to do so through the federal website, while meeting the legal definition of having a state-run exchange. The bill, which received unanimous support in committee, as well as from insurance companies and Maine business interests, was held pending the court’s decision.

Greenwood resident Will Chapman said he would have been able to pay his insurance premiums if he lost his ACA subsidy, but he’s relieved he doesn’t have to worry about it. The 24-year-old first bought insurance through the ACA marketplace for 2014. With subsidies, he now pays $180 per month, but that likely would have jumped to $240 per month if he had lost the subsidy.

“That would have still been affordable for me, but not as affordable,” said Chapman, who receives a reimbursement from his employer, Bethel Historical Society, for part of the cost.

Chapman said he is “very relieved” for all of the people who wouldn’t have been able to afford their insurance if the subsidies were lost. He also wonders about the impact that a different ruling would have had on the health care system.

“I would have questioned if the whole system would have fallen apart without the subsidies,” he said.


Maine’s congressional delegation had mixed reactions to the ruling.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said it is now “crucial for Congress to work together to fix some of the flaws in the law that have been hurting many low- and middle-income workers, as well as employees of many small businesses.”

“These flaws include harsh penalties under Obamacare for middle-income workers who earn extra money or get a raise in a given year and the disincentives for small businesses to hire additional employees,” she said in a prepared statement. “These provisions need to be corrected – they discourage struggling workers from trying to earn more money and discourage small businesses from creating jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, also criticized the ruling, saying that the ACA had forced families to purchase insurance with higher premiums and deductibles and was bad for businesses.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling assures that health care in America will continue to be rationed and taxes will continue to rise to pay for the government-run system,” he said in a written statement. “I fear that more jobs will be lost as the expensive government mandates prevent businesses from being able to hire more workers.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent, applauded the decision and said it’s time to “finally put discussions about dismantling the law behind us.”

“Today, more than 60,000 Mainers and millions more across the country can breathe a sigh of relief that they still have access to the high-quality affordable health insurance plans provided through the Affordable Care Act,” he said in a prepared statement.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, praised the Supreme Court for making “the right decision.”

“When the ACA was being written and passed, everybody – Republicans, Democrats and the Congressional Budget Office alike – agreed that the subsidies would be available in all states. Only later did opponents change their minds,” she said in a written statement.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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