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Supreme Court Will Hear New Challenge to Obamacare

The court will address the provision of the law that authorizes subsidies to help some people afford health insurance.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a high-stakes challenge to a provision of Obamacare that helps 5 million Americans pay for health insurance.

The law says that low-income Americans people who buy insurance through state exchanges qualify for a federal subsidy. But it is ambiguous about whether subsides are available for insurance purchased through the federal exchange.

An estimated 5 million Americans have insurance that way. The average premium is $80 per month and would jump to $345 per month without the subsidy.

The Obama administration says that the law, read as a whole, clearly provides for the subsidies on the federal exchange. Two federal appeals courts have reached opposing decisions on the matter.

Opponents of the law brought the challenge that the Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear. The case will be heard this term and decided by the end of June.

The White House dismissed the challenge as a partisan attempt to undermine the law.

“These lawsuits won’t stand in the way of the Affordable Care Act and the millions of Americans who can now afford health insurance because of it,” press secretary Josh Earnest said. “We are confident that the financial help afforded millions of Americans was the intent of the law, and it is working as Congress designed.”

The justices upheld the heart of the law in a closely watched, 5-4 case in 2012.

The new challenge comes three days after an election in which Republicans, some of whom want the law repealed, won a majority in the Senate and expanded their advantage in the House.

— Pete Williams