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Supreme Court will hear newest challenge to Affordable Care Act

November 7, 2014
The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear the most serious challenge to the Affordable Care Act since the justices found it constitutional more than two years ago: a lawsuit targeting the federal subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance.

More than 4 million people receive the subsidies, which the Obama administration contends are essential to the act by making insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income families.

But challengers say the administration is violating the plain language of the law. They are represented by the same conservative legal strategists who fell one vote short of convincing the court that the law was unconstitutional the last time around.

The question in this challenge is whether the subsidies should be available to all Americans who qualify or only to those who purchase insurance through exchanges “established by the state.”

About a third of the states have created exchanges, and the challengers say the subsidies should be available only in those places. As the law authorizes, federal authorities have stepped in to establish exchanges where the states have refused.

The decision to hear the case, which will be decided by the end of the court’s term in June, comes as the act’s second enrollment period begins Nov. 15. Separately, the Republican takeover of the Senate in the midterm elections probably means more attacks by the GOP opponents of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

“This lawsuit reflects just another partisan attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act and to strip millions of American families of tax credits that Congress intended for them to have,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

The decision to accept the case — along with the increased likelihood that the justices will be compelled to decide whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry — could transform what had been forecast as a quiet term for the court.

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