Halbig v. Burwell

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit has just announced their decision in the long-awaited Halbig v. Burwell case. With a 2-1 decision the court ruled that the IRS regulation that allows subsidies for Affordable Care Act recipients in states using healtcare.gov was illegal. According to USA Today:

The appeals panel ruled that as written, the health care law allows tax credits to be offered to qualified participants only in state-run exchanges. The administration had expected most if not all states to create their own, but only 16 states did so.

The court said the Internal Revenue Service went too far in allowing participants in other states served by the federal exchange to qualify for billions of dollars in government assistance. The aid has helped boost enrollment figures to more than 8 million.

This case has multiple implications. Not only does it impact the Affordable Care Act, but it also addresses the statutory interpretation legal debate. As was reiterated by the D.C. Circuit:

“An agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate”

Consumers’ Research will continue to monitor the developments of this important court case throughout the day. Check back regularly for up-to-date information and analysis.



NPR, as well as a number of other news agencies, are reporting the government’s response to the Halbig v. Burwell ruling:

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said the Obama administration will ask the case to be heard by the full 11-judge panel.

“We believe that this decision is incorrect, inconsistent with Congressional intent, different from previous rulings, and at odds with the goal of the law: to make health care affordable no matter where people live,” the spokeswoman, Emily Pierce, said in a statement. “The government will therefore immediately seek further review of the court’s decision. In the meantime, to be clear, people getting premium tax credits should know that nothing has changed, tax credits remain available.”



According to a recent article from The New York Times, consumers should not expect concrete decisions about the Halbig v. Burwell case soon. As the Obama Administration appears poised to appeal this morning’s decision, many expect that the case will go in front of the Supreme Court. Given the speed at which the court operates, many do not expect an appeal to be finalized for at least a year.


Read More- “Appeals court panel deals blow to Obamacare” (Richard Wolf, USA Today)

Read More- “U.S. Appeals Courts Issue Conflicting Decisions On Obamacare Subsidies” (Eyder Peralta, NPR)

Read More- “Rulings on Health Law Are Far From Last Word” (Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times)

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A rising senior at Colgate University, John is currently working as a research fellow with Consumers' Research.


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