The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will decide on a crucial case in the Republicans’ ongoing battle against the Affordable Care Act. The case could determine the fate of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishments.
Oral arguments will likely be heard in October, before Election Day, with a decision not expected until well into 2021.
Several Republican states, with the backing of President Trump’s Justice Department, are suing the government over the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase health care under a tax penalty. The lawsuit alleges that because the GOP 2017 tax bill zeroed out the penalty, the mandate is now unconstitutional. Several of the challengers, including the DOJ, have adopted the position that if the mandate is unconstitutional then the whole law must be invalidated.
In January, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the blue states that are defending the law asked the Supreme Court to review the case. They also requested that the Supreme Court make a ruling before this year’s elections, which the court shot down.
Given that the Supreme Court only requires four votes to take up a case, it’s likely that the court’s four liberal-leaning justices were the ones who decided to take up the lawsuit.
“The sooner the GOP’s dangerous anti-health care lawsuit is ended, the better,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement, which jabbed at the Trump administration for fighting to kill the ACA “even in the middle of the coronavirus.”
“Make no mistake: a big reason that the fate of these vital health care protections is in the hands of the Supreme Court is because Congressional Republicans and President Trump support the lawsuit to take health care away and haven’t lifted a finger to stop it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in his response to the move.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that the individual mandate was unconstitutional but chose to send the case back down to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to decide whether the ACA can survive without the mandate.