Supreme Court Won’t Hear Obamacare Subsidy Case For Now

November 4, 2014

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Source: Business Insurance

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear King v. Burwell – a case with the potential to sink the nation’s new health care law – at least for now.

The case was not among those listed for hearing Monday morning. That likely means the justices have decided to “re-list” it, meaning they will consider hearing it at a different time.

The question in King v. Burwell is whether the language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows consumers to receive premium tax credits in states that have not established their own exchange and instead are relying on HealthCare.gov. One part of the law says the tax credits are available only to Americans who enrolled “through an Exchange established by the State.” But the Obama administration argues that the law’s clear intention was to offer subsidies and expand coverage to Americans in every state.

In July, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia unanimously ruled in favor of the administration in King v. Burwell, saying subsidies should be allowed in all 50 states. The plaintiffs in the King case appealed to the Supreme Court.

A number of constitutional law experts had speculated that the court would likely hold off on hearing King v. Burwell until the outcome of a separate case also dealing with the issue of subsidies. Oral arguments in that case, Halbig v. Burwell, are scheduled for Dec. 17. A panel of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia already ruled in a split decision in Halbig v. Burwell that subsidies should not be allowed in states without their own exchanges. But that decision was vacated in September when the full D.C. Circuit court decided to hear the case en banc.

Experts say the Supreme Court often prefers to only jump into cases only when there’s a split in the lower courts, and right now there is no split because the D.C. Circuit court’s earlier judgment was vacated.

King v. Burwell could be scheduled for discussion at a future conference of the justices, at which point they could again consider taking it.

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