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Conflicting Rulings on Health Care Law 07/23 06:27

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings 
Tuesday in a dispute involving crucial financing for President Barack Obama's 
health care law.

   A three-judge panel of the appeals court in Washington said the plain 
language of the law states that financial aid to help people pay insurance 
premiums can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance 
exchanges.

   But a similar panel of the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, said the 
language of the law is confusing and that the Internal Revenue Service 
reasonably interpreted the will of Congress when it said that tax credits can 
also be provided in states where the federal government is running the markets.

   The Washington case is Halbig v. Burwell, and the Richmond case is King vs. 
Burwell. Some excerpts from both decisions:

   ---Judge Thomas Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 
Circuit:

   "Because we conclude that the (Affordable Care Act) unambiguously restricts 
the (tax credit) subsidy to insurance purchased on exchanges 'established by 
the state,' we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS' regulation.

   "We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states 
that wish to can set up exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant 
consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through 
federal exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly. But, high as 
those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is 
higher still."

   ---Judge Roger Gregory, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Richmond:

   Congress determined that "denying tax credits to individuals shopping on 
federal exchanges would throw a debilitating wrench into the act's internal 
economic machinery," and therefore the court deferred to an IRS interpretation 
that furthers the overall goals of the legislation.

   "We find that the applicable statutory language is ambiguous and subject to 
multiple interpretations. Applying deference to the IRS' determination, 
however, we uphold the rule as a permissible exercise of the agency's 
discretion."

   ---Judge Andre Davis, 4th Circuit, concurring:

   "If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be 
fine with a pizza from Domino's, and I then specify that I want ham and 
pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino's with 
a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my 
lunch order. That is this case: Congress specified that exchanges should be 
established and run by the states, but the contingency provision permits 
federal officials to act in place of the state when it fails to establish an 
exchange."


(KA)


 
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