Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Again

The Story:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly since 2012 against arguments that the Obamacare health insurance system enacted in March 2010, violates the Constitution. Its most recent ruling on the subject, on June 17, 2021, found that the latest effort to persuade the courts to strike the whole system must fail because the states whose attorneys general brought the case had no standing in the matter.

Background: 

Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, was the great legislative legacy of the Obama administration. Perhaps just for that reason, the Trump administration worked assiduously to repeal it, and allies in charge of several state governments have also worked to get judicial rulings undermining it.

This latest challenge, which was argued before the Supreme Court last fall, was captioned Texas v. California. As that caption indicates, the case was formally a dispute between states that believed they were harmed by the continuation of the ACA and those that wanted it preserved. Texas and other states argued that the constitutionality of the entire structure of the ACA depends on the presence of an individual insurance mandate, that the mandate has since been removed (Congress has zeroed out the tax penalty for not having insurance), so the whole structure must fall.

At law, this is known as a “severability” issue. Court often have to decide, if a law does both A and B, and A is found unconstitutional, whether B survives as a “severable” part of the whole Act.

The Thing to Know:

In the June 17th decision, seven of the nine Justices agreed that they could not even reach the issue of severability because the petitioner states had not made their case that they are harmed by an unenforced individual mandate.

Most observers now think the litigational challenges to Obamacare will now taper off. The ACA is simply part of our health care status quo now.

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