WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Obama-era health care law, preserving insurance coverage for millions of Americans.
The judges, by a 7-2 vote, left the entire law intact on Thursday by ruling that Texas, other Republican-led states and two individuals did not have the right to sue in court. federal court.
Key provisions of the law include protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, a range of free preventive services, and the extension of the Medicaid program that insures people with low incomes, including those in low-paying jobs or provide health insurance.
There also remains in place the now toothless requirement in the law that people have health insurance or pay a penalty. Congress made this provision moot in 2017 when it reduced the penalty to zero.
Eliminating the penalty had become the hook that Texas and other Republican-led states, as well as the Trump administration, used to attack the law as a whole. They argued that without the mandate, a pillar of the law when it was passed in 2010, the rest of the law should also fall.
And with a more conservative Supreme Court that includes three people appointed by Trump, opponents of “Obamacare” hoped that a majority of judges would finally eliminate the law they have been fighting against for more than a decade.
But the third major attack on the law at the Supreme Court ended in the same way as the first two, with a majority of the court pushing back efforts to either gut the law or get rid of it altogether.
Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees – Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – have divided their voices. Kavanaugh and Barrett joined the majority. Gorsuch disagreed, agreeing with Judge Samuel Alito’s opinion.
Judge Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that states and those who brought federal complaints “have failed to show standing to challenge the law’s minimum essential cover provision as unconstitutional.”
In dissent, Alito wrote, “Today’s ruling is the third installment in our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy, and it follows the same pattern as installments one and two. In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act facing a serious threat, the court managed an unlikely rescue. ”Alito was also a dissenter in the two previous cases.
Republicans have made their case to strike down the entire law even though Congress’ efforts to wrest the entire “root and branch” law, in the words of GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, have failed. They came closest in July 2017, when Arizona Senator John McCain, who died the following year, voted in favor against an effort to repeal his fellow Republicans.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in oral argument in November that it seemed enemies of the law were asking the court to do the job best left to the political branches of government.
The court ruling preserves benefits that have become part of the fabric of the nation’s healthcare system even as Republicans have repeatedly tried to wrest Obamacare – in McConnell’s words – “root and branch.”
The sun rises behind the United States Supreme Court on June 10, 2021, in Washington, DC (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)
Polls show the 2010 healthcare law gained popularity as it came under the most violent onslaught. In December 2016, just before Obama stepped down and Trump called the ACA a “disaster,” 46% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of the law, while 43% approved of it, according to the tracking poll. of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those ratings rocked and by February of this year 54% had a favorable opinion, while disapproval had fallen to 39% in the same ongoing poll.
The health care law is currently undergoing expansion under President Joe Biden, who sees it as the basis for moving the United States to universal coverage. Its giant COVID-19 relief bill dramatically increased subsidies for private health plans offered by the ACA insurance markets, while dangling higher federal payments ahead of the dozen states that have refused the Medicaid expansion of the law. About 1 million people have signed up on HealthCare.gov since Biden reopened registrations amid high levels of COVID cases earlier this year.
The administration says about 31 million people are covered because of the law, most thanks to its combination of Medicaid expansion and market plans. But its most popular benefit is protection for people with pre-existing health issues. They cannot be turned down for coverage due to health issues or charged a higher premium. While people covered by employer plans already had such protections, “Obamacare” guaranteed them for people who buy individual policies.
Another very popular benefit allowed young adults to stay in their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. Before the law, going without medical coverage was a rite of passage for people in their twenties who were new to the world.
Because of the ACA, most privately insured women receive birth control free of charge. This is a covered preventive benefit at no additional cost to the patient. The same goes for routine screening for cancer and other conditions.
For Medicare beneficiaries, “Obamacare” also improved preventative care and, more importantly, closed a gap of several thousand dollars in prescription drug coverage known as the “donut hole.”
Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.