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(Reuters) — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday defended President Barack Obama's signature health care law to congressional critics ahead of a Supreme Court decision expected later this month that could cripple the program.
"Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, middle-class families have more security, and many of those who already had insurance now have better coverage," Ms. Burwell said in prepared remarks to the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.
"In part due to the ACA, households, businesses and the federal government are now seeing substantial savings," she said, adding that health care cost growth is at "exceptionally low levels."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of this month in King v. Burwell, which threatens a key component of the law. The plaintiffs are challenging subsidies that are paid to low- and middle-income Americans to help them afford insurance coverage on the federal health care exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act.
The case was brought by anti-ACA libertarian activists. A ruling in the plaintiffs' favor would remove subsidies from 6.4 million Americans in 34 states who use the federal health care exchange, HealthCare.gov.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia would not be affected by the ruling as they have their own health care exchanges.
President Obama has declared that there is no legal basis for the court to dismantle the subsidies, and the administration has not produced a "Plan B" to grapple with the loss of the subsidies in case he turns out to be wrong.
Republicans in Congress who have opposed the law since its inception say they will unveil a proposed solution after the Court rules. Some favor extending the ACA subsidies for at least a temporary period to help people who would no longer be able to afford their insurance without them.
Don't count on many states to quickly establish their own insurance exchanges to keep their residents covered if the U.S. Supreme Court this month strikes down premium subsidies in states using the federal exchange.