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Verdicts & Settlements

Supreme Court Tosses Red States’ Challenge to Affordable Care Act

— June 18, 2021

In a 7-2 decision, the justices found that the Republican attorneys general seeking to overturn Obamacare lacked standing to sue.

The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, finding that the Republican attorneys general behind the complaint lacked legal standing.

According to The New York Times, the justices ruled 7-2 to preserve the Obama-era legislation. While further challenges against the Affordable Care Act may be filed, the Times opines that this may be the last serious challenge against the still-popular health care mandate.

The Biden Administration, too, has taken the ruling as a win.

“With millions of people still relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “And it’s here to stay.”

The majority opinion, adds POLITICO, was penned by Justice Stephen Breyer.

Breyer was joined by all but two of the bench’s conservative justices, including Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. POLITICO suggests that, by finding that Republican states lack standing to challenge the law, conservative justices were able to evade addressing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

“[We] conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Justice Breyer wrote.

US Supreme Court building; image by Mark Thomas, via
US Supreme Court building; image by Mark Thomas, via

The states challenging the law, led by Texas and its Attorney General, Ken Paxton, alleged that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate became unconstitutional after Congress negated the dictate’s tax penalty for persons who remained uninsured after Obamacare’s passage.

Since the law’s Republican opponents believed the individual mandate fundamental to the Act’s functionality, they suggested that Congress’s removal of the individual mandate should culminate in the repeal of Obamacare as a whole.

However, Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, countered, saying that the individual mandate could be stricken without affecting the Affordable Care Act’s broader utility.

“I think it’s hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire act to fall if the mandate were struck down when the same Congress that lowered the penalty to zero did not even try to repeal the rest of the act,” Roberts told a Texas attorney. “I think, frankly, that they wanted the court to do that. But that’s not our job.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented, though, asserting that the individual mandate is inextricably linked to Obamacare’s other provisions.

“I conclude that those provisions are inextricably linked to the individual mandate and that the States have therefore demonstrated on the merits that those other provisions cannot be enforced against them,” Justice Alito wrote.


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