On July 22, 2014, within hours of one another, the United States Fourth Circuit and D.C. Circuit Courts of Appeals issued conflicting rulings as to the statutory and regulatory permissibility of the insurance-premium subsidies provided by the federal government to qualified insureds who purchase healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act on the health-insurance exchanges run by the federal government.
In a unanimous panel decision reported as King v. Burwell, the Fourth Circuit upheld the federal government’s ability to provide such subsidies regarding the exchanges that it runs, while in Halbig v. Burwell, a divided D.C. Circuit held that the subsidies could only be provided to those who purchase insurance on the exchanges run by state governments. This circuit split could lead to en banc hearings in both Circuit Courts of Appeals and, perhaps, an eventual resolution of the issue by the United States Supreme Court.