Today the federal U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled against the government in Halbig v. Burwell. The three-judge panel sided with the law's challengers, who argued that the IRS does not have the authority to extend ObamaCare's subsidies to states that did not establish an ObamaCare exchange. In other words, the Court ruled to uphold ObamaCare as written. The text of the law specifies that only state-established exchanges (as opposed to federally-established exchanges) can disburse subsidies and tax-credits to certain middle- and low-income customers.
Perhaps even more significant, this case could ultimately disrupt not only ObamaCare's subsidies, but the enforcement of the law's individual mandate and employer mandate. This case has the potential to undo major portions of ObamaCare in 36 states – the states that did not opt to establish their own ObamaCare exchange. Needless to say, this case poses a serious threat to ObamaCare.
Halbig has been widely debated from the beginning, with supporters such as The Cato's Institute's Michael Cannon and Case Western professor Jonathan Adler and many naysayers including Washington and Lee's Timothy Jost.
In today's ruling, federal Judges Thomas B. Griffith and A. Raymond Randolph ruled with the plaintiffs, and Judge Harry T. Edwards dissented. The next step will almost undoubtedly be an appeal from the government to the full circuit, meaning other judges who sit in the federal Court of Appeals in D.C. would cast a vote in the case. From there, the case would head to the Supreme Court. Today's ruling at the appellate level was a huge blow to ObamaCare.
This blog is cross-posted at HealthCareLawsuits.org. Visit Health Care Lawsuits to learn more about this case and others, including King v. Burwell, a similar case that received a less-favorable ruling in the Fourth Circuit today.