If the Obama administration loses a high-profile appellate court battle over the insurance premium subsidies in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it still will have two more chances to make its case for offering the subsidies through HealthCare.gov. But both supporters and critics of the law agree that if the administration loses the case, it will be a devastating blow to efforts to expand coverage under the law.
An adverse court decision would mean the cancellation of subsidies for millions of Americans in the 36 states being served by the federal exchange. That almost certainly would create massive confusion and coverage disruption. The only two lower federal courts that have handed down decisions so far sided with the administration.
But during oral arguments last week before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, two judges on a three-member panel expressed strong skepticism about the administration's arguments.
In Halbig v. Sebelius, the appellate court heard from lawyers for seven private citizens and businesses who said the Internal Revenue Service last year illegally interpreted the law's language to allow federal subsidies for any American in any state who meets income criteria.