U.S. Supreme Court rejects latest challenge to Obamacare

Clay Curtis
June 18, 2021

"Yet, seven justices chose to avoid the question of the constitutionality by limiting its decision to a ruling on standing". The provision, called the "individual mandate", originally required Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a financial penalty.

"We do not reach these questions of the Act's validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them", said the majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his state was "deeply disappointed that the court ducked the question about the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate". Mr Biden also encouraged more Americans to use Obamacare to obtain coverage.

Republican lawmakers said the "ruling does not change the fact that Obamacare failed to meet its promises and is hurting hard-working American families".

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who led the challenge, vowed to continue to fight Obamacare.

The law was Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement.

"With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD", Biden said. We used this policy to launch our Voice for the Uninsured campaign in 2007, providing needed momentum as health reform was being debated in DC. The lawsuit had claimed that the individual mandate led state residents to enroll in state programs such as Medicaid.

Conservative justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who was also appointed by Trump, were the dissenting voices.

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Republicans fiercely opposed Obamacare when it was proposed, failed to repeal it when they controlled both chambers of Congress and have been unsuccessful in getting courts to invalidate the law. The Trump administration's Department of Justice decided against defending the law and sided with the lawsuit, leading California and a collection of 15 blue states to take up the mantle.

"To find standing here to attack an unenforceable statutory provision would allow a federal court to issue what would amount to an advisory opinion without the possibility of any judicial relief", Breyer said, in the opinion, joined by four conservative justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, whom then-President Donald Trump nominated in hopes she might vote to overturn Obamacare.

If Obamacare had been struck down, up to 20 million Americans stood to lose medical insurance and insurers again could have refused to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

It is important to remember that extending coverage to the uninsured-by subsidizing ACA marketplace coverage, expanding Medicaid and by other means-boosts our efforts to dismantle longstanding inequities in our health care system that have directly harmed Black, Latino and Indigenous communities and other historically marginalized groups. He and other Democrats had criticized Republican efforts to strike down the law at a time when the US was grappling with a deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The big Supreme Court rulings have finally arrived!

Opposition to Obamacare seems to have receded as a political issue for Republicans as the party has emphasized other matters such as immigration, voting restrictions and hot-button cultural issues. For the individual plaintiffs, as the individual mandate penalty was zeroed out, the government - notably the Internal Revenue Service - could not be connected to any harm or injury suffered by the plaintiffs. The penalty's elimination under the 2017 tax law meant the individual mandate could no longer be interpreted as a tax provision and was therefore unlawful, the Republican challengers argued.

A federal judge in Texas in 2018 ruled that Obamacare, as structured following the 2017 change, violated the Constitution and was invalid in its entirety. Opponents of the ACA argue that because the individual mandate is essential to how the law operates, the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional.

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