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Obamacare Subsidy Challenge Goes to Full Appeals Court Hearing

Image: Murillo reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California
Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014. More than 6 million people have now signed up for private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law known as Obamacare, reflecting a surge in enrollments days before the March 31 deadline, the White House said on Thursday. More than 1 million people have signed up for Obamacare in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH POLITICS)LUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters, file

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The Obama administration won a small victory Thursday in all the various court challenges to Obamacare when a big appeals court threw aside a ruling that could have scuttled the law. The Washington, D.C. court of appeals agreed to have a full court hearing of the case on Dec. 17, tossing out an unfavorable ruling by just three of its members. Most legal experts think the full court will rule in favor of the administration on the question of whether the federal government may subsidize health insurance.

The law clearly says that states are to set up the exchanges. But most states opted not to, and the federal government took over in those states. The DC court ruled in the case, called Halbig v. Burwell, that the federal government may not pay subsidies for insurance plans in those states. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond took the opposite point of view, saying the subsidies are legal.The subsidies are at the heart of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The federal government pays up to 100 percent of the premiums for certain insurance plans for people with low incomes.

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-- Maggie Fox

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