August 1, 2014:
The Obama administration Friday asked a federal appeals court to grant another hearing in a case challenging Obamacare subsidies, and hours later, the court gave the subsidies opponents 15 days to respond to that request.
The Justice Department filed the petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the case Halbig v. Burwell. In a blow to the Affordable Care Act, a three-judge panel ruled last month that the subsidies can’t flow through the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, but only through state markets.
That same day, a separate three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit in Virginia issued a contradictory ruling that the subsidies were allowed in both state and federal exchanges. The plaintiffs this week petitioned the Supreme Court on that case, King v. Burwell, rather than ask for a broader review at the appellate level.
“The majority erred by purporting to discern the plain meaning of one provision before considering all relevant provisions of the act,” the government’s petition in Halbig says. The administration had said it would appeal and filed in less than two weeks.
“We believe that this decision is an outlier and the full Circuit Court will agree with Congress and commonsense, and the Fourth Circuit’s contrary ruling on the same issue,” a senior administration official said. “This litigation should be seen for what it is – another partisan attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act.”
If the administration’s en banc request is granted, the case would likely be reheard by 13 judges on the court including two senior judges involved in the initial decision.
The case threatens a major part of the health care law, which provides federal subsidies for low- and moderate-income Americans to buy health coverage. In their suit, several individuals and businesses argue that the administration is breaking the law by awarding the subsidies through exchanges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.