Full Appeals Court Takes Up Halbig v. Burwell Case
The full U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has said it will re-hear the case Halbig v. Burwell, which challenges whether the federal government can provide subsidies to U.S. residents who purchased coverage through the Affordable Care Act's federal insurance exchange, the Huffington Post reports (Lavender, Huffington Post, 9/4).
According to Politico Pro, the full D.C. appeals court vacated the panel court's July ruling and set oral arguments in the re-hearing to begin in December (Kenen, Politico Pro, 9/4).
Halbig v. Burwell targets a May 2012 Internal Revenue Service rule that allows subsidies to be offered through the federal exchange.
The suit's 12 plaintiffs -- including a hospital chain and a restaurant franchise -- argued that the IRS rule should be invalidated because it contradicts what Congress originally intended in the ACA. Numerous ACA opponents also have argued that IRS exceeded its legal authority by issuing the rule.
Two judges on a three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote that the ACA "does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal exchanges." Instead, the law "plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states."
However, a dissenting opinion filed by Judge Harry Edwards called the case an "attempt to gut" the ACA and said the majority opinion "defies the will of Congress"
In a petition, the Department of Justice asked for an en banc -- or full court -- review of the decision. DOJ's petition came after plaintiffs in a similar case -- King v. Burwell -- with a conflicting ruling asked the Supreme Court to review the issue.
According to Vox, the en banc review could benefit the Obama administration because it allows the circuit court to potentially reverse its earlier decision. If that happens, the new ruling would be in line with that made in the King case, meaning there would no longer be a conflict between the courts on the issue. Abolishing the conflict could lessen that chance that the issue would reach the Supreme Court (Kliff, Vox, 9/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.