• Affordable Care Act May Be Headed to the Supreme Court (Again)
  • July 26, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears on a crash course for the Supreme Court, again, after a pair of conflicting court rulings. Two federal Appeals Courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday in lawsuits that challenge the subsidies that the ACA provides to help people cover the cost of their premiums. One Appeals Court said the subsidies should be available only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges and ruled that the IRS broke the law by providing them nationwide. Hours later, another Appellate Court said the IRS did nothing wrong and the subsidies are legal everywhere.

    The Justice Department lost the first of Tuesday's cases, Halbig v. Burwell, in which a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals limited Obamacare's subsidies to state-run exchanges. The Justice Department said Tuesday it will appeal the panel's ruling to the full D.C. Circuit Court.

    The administration won the day's second case, King v. Sebelius, which was decided by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The challengers who lost in King could also seek a review before the full 4th Circuit.

    The Supreme Court is more likely to take a case when there's a split between circuit courts, the very situation the two conflicting rulings created Tuesday. That's why the challengers are likely to appeal directly to the high court—the landscape right now is favorable to them.

    But if the Justice Department wins its appeal in the Halbig case—which, again, is likely—there will no longer be a split between Appeals Courts, and the case could become less attractive to the Supreme Court justices. So it's in the challengers' interests to move quickly, before the full D.C. Circuit Court rules.