A federal appeals court ruled that states could join a lawsuit in an effort to keep payments to Obamacare insurers flowing.

The order released Tuesday by the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals comes at a pivotal time for the fate of the payments that reimburse Obamacare insurers for lowering out-of-pocket costs for low-income enrollees.

President Trump has not made a commitment to the payments for 2018, and some insurers plan to raise rates if they aren't made next year.

However, the new ruling could mean that 16 Democratic-leaning states that filed the motion to intervene in the lawsuit could keep the legal fight alive.

The appeals court unanimously found that the states would be injured if the payments were to go away.

The order said that termination of the payments will "increase the number of uninsured individuals for whom the states will have to provide healthcare. In addition, state-funded hospitals will suffer financially when they are unable to recoup costs from uninsured indigent patients for whom federal law requires them to provide medical care."

The ruling throws a wrench into a stalled legal battle over the payments.

The House of Representatives sued the Obama administration in 2014, arguing that the cost-sharing payments were illegal because they weren't appropriated through Congress.

A federal judge agreed with the House but stayed her ruling until appeals were exhausted. Then the White House changed hands, but the Trump administration has not decided what it wanted to do with the lawsuit or whether to drop the appeal from his predecessor.

Republican and Democratic senators have called for resuming the cost-sharing payments after a Republican-led effort to repeal Obamacare collapsed last week.