By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday took no action on a closely watched case that challenges a key part of the Obamacare healthcare law and could limit the availability of federal health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.
The legal fight concerns whether the subsidies vital to the implantation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act should be available in all 50 states or only in some. The case was brought by conservative challengers to the law who were appealing a July ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the subsidies.
The high court could have announced on Monday whether or not it would hear the case. The next chance for the court to announce if it plans to take it up is Nov. 10.
The healthcare law, considered one of President Barack Obama's signature achievements, set up health insurance exchanges and tax-credit subsidies to help people afford insurance premiums. The measure, intended to give Americans greater access to affordable health insurance, was passed by Congress despite unified opposition from Republicans.
In 2014, 8 million consumers signed up for healthcare coverage via the exchanges. The plaintiffs say that, based on the language in the law, the subsidies may only be paid in states that have their own online health insurance exchanges. A total of 36 states do not have exchanges of their own.
Five million people could be affected, analysts have estimated, if the Obama administration loses the legal fight and subsidies disappear from the federal marketplaces that have been set up in states that did not create their own exchanges.
The case is King v. Burwell, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-114.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)