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Federal appeals court to reconsider health subsidies case

[JURIST] The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Thursday threw out a July judgment that ruled subsidies that help individuals purchase insurance through the federal exchanges are illegal. The court granted an Obama administration request to have its full panel of judges rehear a challenge to regulations that allow tax credits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text, PDF] for consumers in states that elect not to set up their own health insurance exchange. The case, Halbig v. Burwell, reviewed a 2012 decision by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] to allow the subsidies. Supporters of the 2-1 ruling argue the IRS exceeded its authority [WSJ report] in issuing the rule. The new arguments will take place on December 17.

The July ruling by the DC Circuit Appeals Court came out on the same day as the ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the subsides in a unanimous decision. Comprehensive health care reform [JURIST backgrounder] was passed by Congress in March 2010 after over a year of debate, and legal challenges surrounding the provisions of the PPACA have reinvigorated legal debate in 2014. The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in June in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that closely held corporations can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees for religious reasons. Two weeks after the Hobby Lobby decision, US Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill [JURIST report] to restore full contraception coverage for employees of closely held corporations.

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