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An ObamaCare 're-do'?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court could get something of a “re-do” of its ObamaCare affirmation, thanks to conflicting federal appellate court rulings on Tuesday.

The issue before the courts — in Washington, D.C., and in Richmond, Va. — is if federal subsidies can flow to 36 states, Pennsylvania included, that did not establish state exchanges for the public to buy health insurance at discounted, taxpayer-underwritten rates.

The Affordable Care Act clearly says that states establishing such exchanges are eligible for federal funding. Congressional Democrats assumed all states would jump at the chance. But when not all did, the Obama administration's Internal Revenue Service freelanced the law to allow subsidies even to those in states relying on the federal exchange.

A tribunal of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said yesterday that, as per the law's wording, only state exchange-purchased health insurance is eligible for subsidies. But another three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that because the wording versus the reality created an ambiguity, the IRS was within its purview.

Either of the courts' majorities could affirm or overturn their respective tribunals' ruling. But it's a safe bet those on the losing side would appeal to the Supreme Court. Thus, it will be up to the high court to determine if the letter of the law is to be followed or if laws can be re-written at implementation to rectify unintended consequences not envisioned by their authors.

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