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The controversial federal court decision that threatened the future of the Affordable Care Act is no more.
The full District of Columbia Court of Appeals Thursday agreed to rehear Halbig v. Burwell, a case charging that the federal government lacks the authority to provide consumers tax credits in health insurance exchanges not run by states.
The order agreeing to hear the case technically cancels the three-judge ruling from July that found for the plaintiffs. That ruling, if upheld, could jeopardize the entire structure of the Affordable Care Act by making insurance unaffordable for millions of consumers in the 36 states where the federal government operates the exchange.
The court will hear oral arguments in the case in December. For the time being, the order also eliminates the “circuit split” that could prompt the Supreme Court to take up the case. The same day the panel from the Washington, D.C., circuit decided that tax credits are not allowed in federal exchanges, a three-judge panel from the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., decided exactly the opposite.
The losers in that case, King v. Burwell, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court on July 31.
But now that there are no appeals courts technically in disagreement, “it’s much less likely the Supreme Court will take it,” said Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
It is also considered likely that the full District Court of...