[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday in favor of House Republicans in a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) [text, PDF]. Judge Rosemary Collyer found that the Obama administration is illegally spending money to fund subsidies under the act without congressional approval:
This case involves two sections of the Affordable Care Act: 1401 and 1402. Section 1401 provides tax credits to make insurance premiums more affordable, while Section 1402reduces deductibles, co-pays, and other means of "cost sharing" by insurers. Section 1401 was funded by adding it to a preexisting list of permanently-appropriated tax credits and refunds. Section 1402 was not added to that list. The question is whether Section 1402 can nonetheless be funded through the same, permanent appropriation. It cannot.White House spokesperson Josh Earnest [official profile] dismissed the ruling, saying the Justice Department would decide whether to appeal. Collyer's ruling has no immediate effect, as she placed it on hold anticipating an appeal by the Obama administration.
The ACA [JURIST backgrounder] has generated legal controversy and a series of court challenges since its passage. This lawsuit was filed in 2014, and Collyer allowed it proceed [JURIST report] last fall. In January the US Congress sent a bill [HR 3762] to repeal the ACA to President Barrack Obama [official profile], which he vetoed [JURIST report]. The National Conference of State Legislatures [official website] reports that between 2010 and 2015, at least 21 states have enacted laws attempting to challenge or completely opt out of mandatory provisions of the ACA. Most recently the ACA was amended by the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act [text], which allows states to consider employers with 51 to 100 employees as large employers, removing certain restrictions on small employers from those employers in this category. In June the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in King v. Burwell [SCOTUSblog materials] that tax credits available to those who buy health insurance through state exchanges are also available to those who buy it through the federal exchange. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that closely held corporations can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees for religious reasons.