NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Relief and frustration sum up the reaction of locals to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Thursday on President Obama's signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
In the state of Louisiana, nearly 200,000 people purchased health insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov, the health insurance marketplace run by the federal government.
"I think everybody should have health insurance and it should be available for everybody," said Stacy Josey.
Josey is a local bartender working part-time, and because of the federal tax credit that she qualifies for, she has health coverage.
"I think it should be $130, but with everything, I pay $50 a month which is good," Josey said.
Opponents of the ACA wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw subsidies or tax credits for everyone in states that did not create their own health insurance marketplace as the law allows. They contend the law's language signals that the subsidies are only for people buying insurance through state-run insurance exchanges.
Louisiana is among 34 states that refused to set up a health care exchange. Gov. Bobby Jindal is strongly opposed to the existing law.
"It's absurd and it's very telling that we don't really have a democracy anymore," said Hy McEnery, a member of the Greater New Orleans Tea Party. "SCOTUS-care should be the new name of this, because that's really what it is."
In Louisiana, 89 percent of the people who gained coverage through the federal government's marketplace qualified for an average tax credit of $319, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"In this region, we've seen the uninsured rate decrease, and a lot of that is actually due to the Affordable Care Act and through the fact that people could actually get coverage through the Affordable Care Act and they were able to receive subsidized coverage," said Susan Todd, Executive Director of 504HealthNet, a health care advocacy organization.
University of New Orleans health care economics expert Dr. Walter Lane said had the Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor there would have been a negative impact on the national economy. He said healthcare providers and the insurance industry would have been left in a bind.
"It would have been chaos for them because the government would have come up with some patch to keep it going, but in the meantime everybody would have been left in limbo for weeks, or months," Lane said.
Jindal has consistently refused to expand eligibility for the state's Medicaid program which would let even more of the working poor get government-funded health coverage. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for having more individuals on Medicaid rolls for the first three years, and said that federal funding would never fall below 90 percent for future years.
"They are below sort of 100 percent of the federal poverty level, so they're not eligible for subsidies through the marketplace…you know if the state were to expand Medicaid you would see a large of these folks, they would be able to get enrolled and get coverage and the insurance they need," Todd said.
The Republican presidential candidates speak of repealing the Affordable Care Act, and currently both houses of the Congress are controlled by GOP members. But some believe that would be easier said, than done.
"I don't think there's any way we can make a U-turn on this anymore. It's too well-entrenched in the economy now," Lane said.
Some political observers believe the high court's ruling takes the pressure off of lawmakers who were not prepared to respond to the possibility of millions of Americans losing the federal insurance subsidies and subsequently their health coverage because of affordability issues.