The Affordable Care Act landed in a new level of legal peril Tuesday, courtesy of a duo of conflicting court rulings that threaten to send the law back to the Supreme Court — and once again put the law's foundation at the mercy of the justices.
Two federal Appeals Courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday in lawsuits that challenge the subsidies that Obamacare provides to help people cover the cost of their premiums. One Appeals Court said the subsidies should be available only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges and ruled that the IRS broke the law by providing them nationwide.
Hours later, another Appellate Court said the IRS did nothing wrong and the subsidies are legal everywhere.
But the conflicting rulings don't automatically send the law back the land's highest court. Instead, Obamacare's immediate future will be determined as both sides appeal the decisions that didn't go their way.
Obama's next move
The Justice Department lost the first of Tuesday's cases, Halbig v. Burwell, in which a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals limited Obamacare's subsidies to state-run exchanges.
The Justice Department said Tuesday it will appeal the panel's ruling to the full D.C. Circuit Court. The full D.C. Circuit is dominated by Democratic appointees, so the Justice Department has a good chance of winning this appeal.