(NBC) – Two separate appeals courts took completely different stances on challenges to the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday.
A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. struck a major blow against the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 the act does not allow people to receive subsidies for insurance bought on federal exchanges.
Section 36B of the Affordable Care Act reads, subsidies should be provided “through an Exchange established by the State.”
Oklahoma and 35 other states refused to set up state-run exchanges.
The court ruled, “A federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State.’”
The Act requires people to buy insurance or face a penalty.
If the subsidies are struck down, many people could opt out of buying insurance without facing a penalty.
Oklahoma has a pending lawsuit that is based on very similar legal ground.
“It really vindicates what we’ve been saying all along,” said Patrick Wyrick with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.
The state attorney general’s office called the ruling a victory for Oklahoma.
“Early on, we recognized this major problem with how the Obama administration was implementing the Affordable Care Act,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt said. “Other states and private plaintiffs like Halbig followed our lead in challenging the law and today’s ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for Oklahoma’s lawsuit and others challenging the law. Our lawsuit challenges the administration’s attempt to ‘fix’ the health care law through executive fiat. This ruling gives us great confidence that Oklahoma’s lawsuit will ultimately prevail.”
The ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond took the opposite point of view, claiming the subsidies are legal.
Authorities say the decisions change nothing at the moment and it will probably be years before a conclusion is reached.
An expert told NBC News that governors of states that opted out of building their own exchanges will likely be under pressure to do so.