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Ear to the Ground

Contradictory Rulings Proffer More Obamacare Headaches

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Posted on Jul 22, 2014

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Circuit courts in Virginia and the District of Columbia issued opposite rulings Tuesday, just hours and not so many miles apart from each other.

The basic question is whether the federal government can subsidize health insurance offered through the federal exchange. The D.C. court ruled that the government can offer subsidies only for plans sold through state-based exchanges, while the Virginia court ruled that HealthCare.gov plans can also be subsidized.

The vast majority of states (36) declined to set up their own online marketplaces, and many people can buy coverage only through the federal exchange. Since the Affordable Care Act mandates that everyone buy insurance and the government will financially support those who cannot afford to do so, the D.C. ruling could be a real problem.

Or not.

As Reuters reports: “The appearance of a split between separate circuit courts over the question of Obamacare subsidies could increase the chance of Supreme Court intervention. But legal experts and some Republicans on Capitol Hill said the full D.C. Circuit court, dominated by appointees of Democratic presidents, was likely to overturn its panel’s ruling or at least revisit it.”

So, perhaps another showdown in the Supreme Court, perhaps not. We’ll keep you posted.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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