The Obama administration on Monday will fire its first missive in federal appeals court defending the appropriations used to fund portions of the Affordable Care Act.
A federal judge sided with House Republicans in May, ruling that the administration illegally funneled money to support the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies, which can be used to cover out-of-pocket costs, even though Congress never appropriated the funds.
Over the summer, the federal government appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Experts say there will be a fierce battle over the controversial provisions that may ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the lower court proceedings, the administration alleged the provisions were linked to congressionally approved tax credits, a move U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer called “most curious and convoluted.”
It is likely the administration will ask the D.C. Circuit to determine if House Republicans even had standing to bring the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 upheld premium subsidies in King v. Burwell.
According to the CMS, approximately 56% of Americans receiving insurance coverage via the ACA exchanges received cost-sharing reductions as of June 2015.
Collyer's decision won't go into effect until the D.C. Circuit rules on the appeal. It's unclear how much the ruling could damage the law if it's upheld by the D.C. Circuit or Supreme Court, but legal experts say it's unlikely it would doom the law as a whole.
Oral arguments have not been scheduled, and the parties will develop the case in briefs through early December.