The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the third time it has maintained the 2010 healthcare law.
Texas and other Republican-leaning states, backed by the Trump administration, sought to strike down the law on technical discussions after Congress reduced to zero the tax penalty for failing to take medical insurance. Thursday’s 7-2 decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, found that none of the plaintiffs suffered any injury against zeroing out the penalty and thus they lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit at all.
“we don’t reach those questions of the Act’s validity,” Justice Breyer wrote. “Texas and the other plaintiffs in this lawsuit lack the standing required to raise them.”
Joining the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, accused the majority of ducking the inherent issues that conservatives for years have argued make the federal health care overhaul unconstitutional.
“With tens of thousands of people relying upon the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” President Biden tweeted following the conclusion, using an abbreviation for big freaking deal, in the more-polite version. In addition, he encouraged more involvement in the insurance plans provided under the act.
Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, that led the challengers, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. GOP lawmakers in Washington signaled they’d advocate for legislative changes following the newest court setback.
“The judgment does not change the fact that Obamacare failed to fulfill its promises and is damaging hard-working American families,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and other leading Republicans said in a statement. “Today, Congress must work together to improve American healthcare.”
A group of Democratic attorneys general had intervened in the case, California v. Texas, to defend the law against arguments made by their Republican counterparts as well as the Trump government.
The hottest health-law legal battle was a cloud over the ACA for many decades. A Texas federal judge ruled in 2018 that the whole law was invalid, a decision that never went into effect. A year later a federal appeals court agreed that the insurance mandate was unconstitutional, but it ordered the trial court to reconsider if other areas of the sprawling law could stay in place.
The high court’s decision reversed those rulings. Had the justices voided the ACA, their decision could have forced a reset of federal healthcare policy and thrown the marketplace into turmoil, while also potentially leading to a considerable growth in uninsured Americans.