The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, dismissing a court case that a coalition of Republican leaders brought and that was supported by the Trump administration. The Biden administration formally changed the federal government’s position in favor of the law after taking over, but by that point, arguments in the case had already been heard.
The Republicans who advocated against the landmark health care legislation in this context had argued that, because Congress lowered the law’s penalty for not having health coverage down to zero dollars, the legislation’s mandate for health insurance was no longer legal because it no longer constituted a tax, which Congress can impose. Seven justices on the nine-member court — including Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — concluded that the interests behind the lawsuit did not have the appropriate legal standing to bring the case, since — due to the penalty for not having health coverage being at zero — they couldn’t prove the existence of an actionable so-called injury on their part, as is required in legal proceedings.
As reported by NPR this week based on revelations from the White House, more than “31 million Americans access health insurance through the ACA – a record high since the law’s inception.” Although the Trump administration backed setting the law entirely aside, they did not at the time have a replacement plan ready to implement, meaning that — if they got their way — millions of Americans could have been negatively impacted. Observers were concerned that Republicans rushed to get Trump pick Amy Coney Barrett on the court in order to have her in place in time for last November’s arguments in this Obamacare case — but as it turns out, even a justice rushed through confirmation by Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate wouldn’t go along with the GOP effort.
Broadly, the Affordable Care Act provides benefits like subsidies for health insurance, an extension of the time that children are able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans, and expansions of Medicaid for states willing to accept it. The legislation also restricts health insurance companies from discriminating in coverage decisions against people with pre-existing conditions.