In a 7-2 statement issued on Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act, leaving the law intact.
Seven judges in the court, which now has a conservative majority of 6: 3, concluded that plaintiffs “have failed to show that they are entitled to challenge the basic minimum coverage provision of the law as unconstitutional”. This means that plaintiffs, including the state of Texas, have been unable to prove they have suffered harm from the law.
Plaintiffs’ arguments arose out of the decision by Congress in 2017 to reduce the penalty for failing to meet a statutory minimum level of health care to $ 0. Texas, 17 other states, and two individuals have filed a lawsuit alleging that the $ 0 fine request was unconstitutional because it could no longer be considered a tax. They further argued that the requirement could not be separated from the rest of the act and therefore the act as a whole was invalid.
While the long-awaited decision doesn’t answer the bigger question of whether the required minimum insurance requirement can be divorced from law, it effectively ends another major challenge to former President Barrack Obama’s signature legislation. This is the third time a Court of Auditors challenge to the Supreme Court has failed, with previous attempts in 2012 and 2015 failing.
In this latest trial, the individual plaintiffs alleged that they would have suffered “special individual damage” if they were required by law to pay health insurance.
But since the penalty for failure to comply was effectively lifted four years ago, there is no way for the defendants, the Finance Commissioner and the Minister of Health, to enforce the demand, wrote Judge Stephen Breyer in the majority statement for the court.
“In short, they have not shown that any type of government act or behavior has caused or will cause the harm they attribute [the minimum essential coverage requirement]“Wrote Judge Breyer.
In addition, prosecutors argued that the requirement would lead individuals to government-sponsored insurance programs, which would increase costs. However, they did not provide sufficient evidence of an actual or potential increase in enrollment due to a mandate, Leah Greenberg Katz, partner at law firm Troutman Pepper, said in an email.
“Without this evidence, states could not prove the necessary violation,” she said. “Although the holding company does not agree with the constitutionality of the [individual] Mandate, the court’s stance leaves it intact and very difficult to challenge in the future. “
The Supreme Court decision was met with applause from stakeholders across the industry.
“We’re excited about today’s decision to dismiss the challenge to the Affordable Care Act,” said Kim Keck, President and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, in an email. “[It] Now gives the nation the ability to sensibly address the underlying costs of health care – one of the most important challenges in the health system. “
Rick Pollack, President and CEO of the American Hospital Association, made a similar statement, saying that the millions under the ACA “can breathe easy again.”
Overall, this decision will bring stability to the health care sector at a time when it has been turned on its head by the Covid-19 pandemic, said Cynthia Cox, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, in an email.
“The Court of Auditors has been controversial since it was passed, but the court has clearly ruled today across ideological boundaries,” she said.
Despite the controversy surrounding the law, public opinion of the Court of Auditors has evolved since it was passed in 2010, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. As of May 2010, about 44% of Americans had a generally positive opinion of the law, while 41% had a negative opinion. But in May, the proportion of Americans who rate the ACA positively had risen to 53%, while the proportion of those who have a negative opinion fell to 35%.
If the law had been repealed, not only would the health care of around 31 million people be jeopardized, but at least 50 million people with previous illnesses would potentially have become uninsurable in a pandemic that has so far claimed more than 600,000 lives.
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