DC Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Halbig
By Hadley Heath
This week the DC Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius. Check out my take in Doublethink Magazine:
The law’s challengers in Halbig have illustrated that the original language and intent of the Affordable Care Act was to limit the law’s individual subsidies and tax credits to states that elected to establish their own health benefit exchanges. This way, the subsidies would act as an enticement to states to opt in, like several other provisions in ObamaCare. This “carrot” idea came up in oral arguments Tuesday, although the three judges clearly differed on their interpretations.
The judges also differed on the government’s argument that the federally-operated exchanges were meant to act as “substitutes” for the state-operated exchanges. Judge Harry T. Edwards, a Jimmy Carter appointee, seemed to agree with the government that the overall intent was for subsidies to be available to all individuals between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level regardless of which state in which they reside, or whether their state lawmakers chose to establish a state-run exchange.
But if Congress didn’t make this clear in the statute (or in the legislative history), it’s hard to see this as a reasonable interpretation. Judge Edwards was alone on the bench in his outspoken support for the law.