On November 7th, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear King v. Burwell. The case will argue whether or not subsidies in the marketplace should be limited to states with state-run Exchanges. According to the New York Times, “If the challengers are right, millions of people receiving subsidies (through the federal Exchange) would become ineligible for them, destabilizing and perhaps dooming the law.” Arguments are due to begin in December, and a ruling will be issue by next June.
The key question in the case deals with the conflicting IRS ruling stating that “subsidies are allowed whether the exchange is run by a state or by the federal government.” Those challenging the law in this case say that this rule conflicts with the statutory language set forth in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Two lower courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Halbig v. Burwell and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in King v. Burwell, have already issued conflicting opinions regarding the IRS’ authority to administer subsidies in federally facilitated Exchanges. In addition, two other cases are being litigated in the lower courts on the same issue. In Pruitt v. Burwell, a district court in Oklahoma ruled against the IRS in September, and a decision in a fourth court case, Indiana v. IRS, is expected shortly. Of course, the Supreme Court ruling could render the lower court decisions moot.