A key challenge to the Affordable Care Act has been tossed out by the Supreme Court. The justices ruled that a collection of red states do not have standing to sue over the law’s individual mandate, which requires Americans to buy health insurance.
Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas joined a majority to reject the lawsuit by 18 Republican state attorneys general. In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote:
The Court’s Decision
In a narrow and technical decision, six justices joined Chief Justice John Roberts’s ruling that neither the states nor individual plaintiffs had standing to challenge the law’s mandate. A key requirement for standing is that a plaintiff must show he or she has suffered a specific injury fairly traceable to an invalid law.
However, the ACA’s mandate is now unconstitutional and it’s unclear whether the rest of the law can remain intact. The court punted on that issue, instead remanding the case for further analysis.
The decision marks the third time in less than a decade that the Supreme Court has rejected a broad, global challenge to the law. This is a major setback for the ACA’s opponents, who were hoping to disrupt its insurance markets and impose a massive overhaul of our nation’s health care system.
But it also makes the ACA seem safe for the foreseeable future. The decision leaves many questions unanswered but it’s clear that the Court is leery of sweeping changes to the law.
For a decade, the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people gain insurance coverage, saved thousands of lives and strengthened our health care system. But the Trump administration and its allies are committed to dismantling the ACA and reversing that progress.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear a rehearing of the case in the fall. The Court will review the parties’ briefs and oral arguments.
After reviewing the briefs and hearing oral argument, a majority of the justices will decide how the case should be resolved. A justice will then write a majority opinion.
The Texas lawsuit was the first broad challenge to the ACA, and it posed a significant threat to the law. It involved three key issues: standing, continued constitutionality of the individual mandate and whether the entire ACA can be severed from the mandate if it is unconstitutional.
The Decision’s Impact
The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, ruling that a challenge brought by a group of red states and two individuals who lack health insurance is unconstitutional. The ruling is another reprieve for the ACA, which has survived three trips to the court and intense congressional efforts to repeal it.
In a key decision, the Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that they were injured by the mandate itself or by the reporting requirements and administrative costs that it imposes. Instead, the Court found that the state plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the ACA’s individual mandate because they did not prove they were hurt by it.
Despite the decision, the question remains whether the Supreme Court will be willing to hear more challenges to the ACA, which has been a major focus of Republican states. Several other cases have challenged ACA provisions, and new ACA regulations emerging from the Biden administration are almost certain to be challenged.
The Supreme Court announced its final decision on Thursday, preserving the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The law has expanded access to health insurance, increased consumer protections, emphasized prevention and wellness, improved quality and system performance, and helped curb rising costs.
The justices decided to strike down only two provisions: the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. That leaves intact the rest of the law that has been credited with providing health coverage to 31 million people.
However, the court’s decision raises questions about how it will handle future state challenges to federal laws and regulations. In particular, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other Republican states are expected to challenge new ACA regulations in court.
The court’s ruling makes it easier for the Obama administration to defend the ACA. And it also reduces the potency of the law as a political issue for Republicans.