A U.S. judge in Washington ruled Thursday that the Obama administration has been improperly funding a part of his national health care program that is aimed at helping low-income people pay for their doctors' visits and other health care costs.
Judge Rosemary Collyer, in a decision favoring Republican opponents of President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms, said the government could not reimburse health care insurers $175 billion over a decade to help the patients because Congress never specifically appropriated the money.
The Obama administration has said that it is using other previously approved money to pay for the cost reimbursements.
Collyer blocked further subsidies to the insurers, but said the program could continue pending an expected Obama administration appeal to a higher court.
The Republican-backed lawsuit against the six-year-old health care law, popularly known in the United States as Obamacare, is the latest effort by opponents of the law to undermine what Obama, a Democrat leaving office next year, considers to be the most important domestic legislative achievement of his presidency.
Millions of previously uninsured people in the U.S. have been able to buy health care insurance under the law. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, but its efforts have either been rejected by the Senate or vetoed by Obama.
Opponents of the law consider it to be an overreach by the national government because it forces Americans to buy health care insurance or pay a fine based on their salary.