The White House's top spokesman brushed aside the impact of a court ruling invalidating the federal government's ability to provide Obamacare subsidies, saying the Obama administration is confident that its legal case will prevail on appeal.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday told reporters that the law, as written and passed by Congress, was clear on its intent to provide federal government subsidies for Obamacare to those who qualify for them.
“This will go through the legal process, and we are confident in the case the Justice Department is making,” he said.
After the 2-1 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals's three-judge panel came down Tuesday morning, the Obama administration quickly signaled that it planned to appeal the decision to the full D.C. Circuit.
Even if the Obama administration wins there, the case appears headed for the Supreme Court, which will be the final arbiter of whether the federal government can provide the subsidies, a key pillar of Obamacare.
Asked whether the law could survive if the courts rule against the administration, Earnest said he wouldn't deal in “hypotheticals” and repeated that “we are confident in the legal position that we have.”
Tuesday's court ruling in Halbig v. Burwell determined that the Affordable Care Act does not allow the IRS to distribute premium subsidies in the federal Obamacare exchange, which means low-income consumers who signed up on the federal exchange and not through their states will be forced to pay the full cost of their insurance.
The decision found that the statutory language of the healthcare law does not allow enrollees on the federal exchanges to receive the subsidies.
If upheld, the ruling could have disastrous implications for the long-term fate of Obamacare. Experts say it could block $36 billion in subsides for an estimated 5 million people and some argue it could force some consumers to pay back the subsidies they already owe or face new tax liabilities.