A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama's healthcare law. But it's Republicans—not White House officials—who have been talking about damage control.
A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states.
Obama's law offers subsidized private insurance to people without access to it on the job. In the court case, opponents of the law argue that its literal wording allows the federal government to subsidize coverage only in states that set up their own health insurance markets.
Most states have not done so, because of the intense partisanship over "Obamacare" and in some cases because of technical problems. Instead, they rely on the federal HealthCare.gov website.
If the court invalidates the subsidies in those states, an estimated 8 million people could lose coverage. The results would be "ugly," said Sandy Praeger, a former Kansas insurance commissioner.
"People who are reasonably healthy would just drop coverage," she said. "Only the unhealthy would keep buying healthcare. It would really exacerbate the problem of the cost of health insurance."
Praeger, a Republican who retired this year, called it "a classic death spiral," using a term for market collapse.
Oral arguments on March 4 revealed a divided court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy seemingly are key to the outcome, which won't be known until late June.
If the subsidies survive, the Affordable Care Act will look like settled law to all but its most passionate opponents. But if they are overturned, the shock could carry into next year's elections. Some potential consequences: