Two appeals courts, two rulings on President Obama's health care law

By Kyle Johnson,

Two federal appeals courts ruled on Tuesday about subsidies in President Barack Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act and came to two different conclusions.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that subsidies can only be offered to those in states where exchanges were set up and not in ones where they went through the federal exchange, according to USA Today. The ruling also noted that people who obtained the tax credit would qualify again should states set up their own exchange.

Judge Thomas Griffith noted that the 2-1 ruling was done so "reluctantly" because it could negatively affect millions of people.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the other way, upholding the federal regulations allowing subsidies as the court felt the law as written is ambiguous, the Chicago Tribune reports.

While the former ruling was stayed as the federal government indicated they would appeal to the full court, Constitutional Accountability Center chief counsel Elizabeth Wydra saw that the country's highest court will likely need to weigh in over the healthcare subsidies.

"If there is a split in the circuits, then I think the Supreme Court would have to step in," Wydra said after the second ruling.

The issue was over whether or not the federal government can offer the tax credits to people who signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace, rather than state created ones, since the ACA only mentions the latter.

Reuters notes that due to the length of an appeals process, nothing will actually happen one way or the other for awhile.

Still, Urban Institute's John Holohan commented he hopes "Some states may jump into action to set up their own exchanges to qualify on state-based exchanges," though he knows many would not.

image courtesy of INFphoto.com

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