Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to overturn Affordable Care Act

Landmark healthcare law survives third challenge in blow to Trump and Republican plaintiffs

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 17 June 2021 18:02

The US Supreme Court has rejected a Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act, surviving another major constitutional challenge and preserving healthcare protections for millions of people.

In a 7-2 decision, justices on the nation’s high court argued that Donald Trump, Texas and 19 other states in the case did not have standing to challenge the landmark 2010 healthcare law.

According to the opinion from Justice Stephen Breyer, plaintiffs did not have a legal right to challenge the individual mandate provision of the law, which attached a tax penalty for Americans who did not obtain insurance.

Plaintiffs “failed to show a concrete, particularised injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Justice Breyer wrote. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”

The Trump administration – following nearly a decade of Republican challenges to the law, including failed attempts to “repeal and replace” it – set the tax penalty at zero dollars, as the administration and Republicans in the ACA case argued that the individual mandate is no longer constitutional under the taxing authority of Congress, in a bid to invalidate the entire law and strip away health insurance protections for millions of Americans in the process.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

The healthcare law – a hallmark of President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda – survived two other Supreme Court challenges in 2012 and in 2015, and it has effectively been enshrined within the nation’s byzantine healthcare system, including recent provisions in coronavirus relief legislation to bolster funding for health coverage.

Without the ACA, and no immediate plan to provide healthcare coverage for people who rely on Obamacare-serviced plans, the nation’s uninsured would grow by more than 20 million people, according to the Urban Institute. More than 15 million lower-income Americans who benefit from expanded Medicaid coverage under law would also be left out.

Within three months, more than 1 million people signed up for care coverage through the ACA’s federal insurance marketplace after President Joe Biden opened enrolment in February in the wake of the public health crisis and economic fallout that saw millions of people lose their jobs and employer-backed health coverage. The special enrolment period extends through 15 August.

The president – who was caught on a hot mic telling Mr Obama that the ACA was a “big f***ing deal” when he signed it into law in 2010 – has pledged to expand and build on the law in office.

“It’s still a BFD,” Mr Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain said on Twitter.

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” Mr Biden added. “And it’s here to stay.”

In a White House statement, Mr Biden said the ACA is “stronger than ever, delivers for the American people, and gets us closer to fulfilling our moral obligation to ensure that, here in America, health care is a right and not a privilege.”

“The ACA is here to stay,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks from the US Senate following the ruling. “Now we’re going to try to make it bigger and better.

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