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Majority Backs Congressional Fix If Court Nixes Obamacare Subsidies

Fifty-four percent say that, if the court guts the subsidies, Congress should ensure that people in all states are able to receive the federal aid.
(FILES) In this March 31, 2012 file photo, the US Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court faces a momentous decision March 4, 2015 on the sweeping health insurance reform law that President Barack Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy. The stakes are high. In this highly politicized debate, the highest court in the land could strike down one of the pillars of so-called Obamacare, which could doom the law as a whole. AFP PHOTO / KAREN BLEIER / FILESKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty ImagesAFP - Getty Images

A majority of voters believe that Congress should pass a law to aid millions of lower-income Americans who could lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court invalidates the subsidies they receive for living in states that didn't establish their own insurance marketplaces.

A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll shows that 54 percent of those surveyed say that, if the Supreme Court guts the subsidies, Congress should act to ensure that eligible people in all states are able to receive the federal aid. Thirty-five percent say that Congress should not pass such a law.

The findings come on the eve of arguments in the Supreme Court case known as King vs. Burwell, in which plaintiffs contend that the federal government is violating the law by offering subsidies to lower-income health care enrollees who live in states that have not set up health care “exchanges” or marketplaces. More than 30 states have not set up an exchange.

Defenders of the law argue that the intent of the legislation has always been that all qualified Americans – whether those on state or federal marketplaces – are eligible for subsidies.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Republicans -– who largely disapprove of the Obama-backed health care law -- are far less likely to back a new law if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration. Just one in four GOP voters say Congress should step in to provide the subsidies, compared with 81 percent of Democrats.

But there is a dramatic gap between how men and women view the issue. Women are much more likely to say Congress should help provide the health care help. Six in ten women say lawmakers should provide a legislative fix, while 27 percent disagree. Men are much more evenly split, with 48 percent backing congressional action and 44 percent opposing it.

About six in ten Americans said that they have read, seen or heard news reports about the upcoming Supreme Court case, although only 21 percent say they have heard “a lot” about the issue.

Overall views of the health care law remain largely divided on partisan lines.

Forty-seven percent of those surveyed (including 81 percent of Democrats) said that the law is working well or needs only minor modifications. Fifty-one percent (including 86 percent of Republicans) said that the law needs a major overhaul or should be totally eliminated.

The survey of 800 registered voters was conducted February 25-28 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percent.