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Breaking: Healthcare subsidies on the ropes?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled that tax credits under the Affordable Care Act can only be available to people who enrolled in new exchanges set up in states — not those who enrolled in the default federal program.

Think Progress explains the 2-1 decision in Halbig v. Burwell:

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

But the fight over this issue is far from over.

As Policy Watch noted last week, the same question is currently pending before the Fourth Circuit in Richmond in King v. Sebelius, with a decision expected any day.

And the ruling from the D.C. Circuit is likely to go to the full panel,  according to Vox:

This decision comes from three judges on the D.C. Circuit. The federal government will probably ask the entire D.C. Circuit — eleven judges in total — to review the decision “en banc.” The court skews to the left (there are seven Democratic appointees and only four Republican appointees) which bodes in the administration’s favor. En banc review probably won’t happen until early fall.

Read the full opinion in Halbig v. Burwell  here.

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