A powerful Washington-based appeals court gave liberal defenders of the Affordable Care Act the opportunity to salvage a key Obamacare subsidy Monday, dealing a blow to GOP efforts to end the program.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that a coalition of 16 Democratic state attorneys general may intervene in an ongoing court battle over Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies, which help offset the cost of providing medical care to low income Americans.
House Republicans brought the litigation against the Obama administration in 2014. The suit claims that the subsidies are unconstitutional because they were never authorized by Congress. A federal trial court sided with the GOP in the dispute.
Though the Obama Department of Justice defended the subsidies, the Trump administration has raised the prospect that they would withdraw from the case, effectively ending the subsidy payments. The Democratic movants asked the D.C. Circuit to allow them to take over the defense of the subsidies.
The court granted the coalition’s motion to participate in the litigation, concluding that the states had a substantial interest in protecting the subsidies. The three-judge panel ruled the AGs had demonstrated “a substantial risk that an injunction requiring termination of the payments at issue here … would lead directly and imminently to an increase in insurance prices, which in turn will increase the number of uninsured individuals for whom the states will have to provide health care.”
Former President Barack Obama appointed each member of the panel to the court.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who leads the coalition with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, promised the AGs would vigorously defend the subsidies, especially if the administration attempts to terminate the payments.
“It’s disturbingly clear that President Trump and his administration are willing to treat them as political pawns; but this coalition of attorneys general stands ready to defend these vital subsidies and the quality, affordable health care they ensure for millions of families across the country,” Schneiderman said in a statement shortly after the ruling.
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