By Tom Watts
Yesterday morning, the D.C. Circuit decided Halbig v. Burwell, and the Fourth Circuit decided King v. Burwell. They addressed whether the text of the Affordable Care Act permits subsidies for individuals who purchase insurance on the federal health care exchange. The D.C. Circuit decided that it did not, while the Fourth Circuit decided that it did. Vox has a summary of the cases, and the Lexington Herald-Leader has an excellent FAQ on the rulings.
The decisions split along partisan lines: all four Democratic appointees (three on the Fourth Circuit panel and one dissenting on the D.C. Circuit panel) voted to uphold the subsidies, and both Republican appointees (the majority on the D.C. Circuit panel) voted to strike down the subsidies. Both Republican appointees reasoned that the law authorized tax credits for insurance purchased on an “Exchange established by the State,” and the federal exchanges are not established by any state, so the plain text should prevail. One concurring Democratic appointee on the Fourth Circuit appealed to the plain text as well: the statute provides that, if a state fails to set up an exchange, the Secretary of Health and Human Services sets up “such Exchange” (i.e., the federal exchange is the “Exchange established by the State”). This leads to the opposite result — though both are appealing to the plain meaning of the text! [Read more…] about Why did the D.C. Circuit Strike Down an ACA Regulation?