UPDATE 3-U.S. Supreme Court to hear Obamacare subsidies case
(Adds health insurer shares close lower)
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON Nov 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear a legal challenge to a key part of the Obamacare health law which, if successful, would deprive millions of Americans of tax-credit subsidies to help them afford health insurance coverage.
In a one-sentence order, the court said it would take up a case brought by conservative challengers of the law, the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. healthcare in decades and President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy accomplishment.
The Supreme Court will issue a ruling by the end of June in the case, in which the plaintiffs have appealed a July ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the subsidies.
At issue is whether the subsidies - a vital component of Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, known widely as Obamacare - should be available in all 50 states, or only in some states.
Obamacare set up health insurance exchanges and a system of subsidies to help people afford insurance premiums. The plaintiffs say the language of the law restricts subsidy availability to states that run their own insurance exchanges.
The legal question rests on a phrase in the law that authorizes subsidies for coverage purchased via an "exchange established by the state." The battle is over whether that phrase means subsidies are not available through the federally-run exchange.
If the court found the plaintiff's interpretation to be correct, the subsidies would not be available in 36 states that lack their own health insurance exchanges. In those states, the federal government runs the exchanges. Continuación...