The Supreme Court won’t take up the ongoing appeal over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, leaving the decision in the hands of a lower court. A final decision on the healthcare law will likely not come before the 2020 election, and the Supreme Court gave no reason for rejecting the case.
The decision by the Supreme Court not to quickly take on the case could be considered a blow to Democrats hoping the highest court would step in to save the healthcare law, which is facing its biggest legal battle to date.
The case, which was brought by Republican attorneys general and governors, argues the ACA is unconstitutional after the individual mandate was effectively reduced to $0 in the 2018 Budget Act. A federal judge in Texas agreed in late 2018 and overturned the ACA. Since then, the ACA has remained the law of the land as appeals continue, and the individual mandate was struck down in appeals court at the end of 2019. That court decision did not rule on the entire healthcare law, sending the case back to the first Texas judge before it was appealed to the Supreme Court by Democrats.
Democrats have stepped in to defend the ACA after the Trump administration sided with Republicans to have the healthcare law overturned entirely––including its popular provisions such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions and keeping young adults on their parents’ insurance until age 26. The Department of Justice, in an extraordinary step, also decided not to defend the law.
The Justice Department also previously told the Supreme Court an immediate review of the lower courts’ decisions is unwarranted and there is no urgency to review the case.
While the case continues to bounce around appeals courts, President Trump has falsely added to the narrative by claiming he “saved pre-existing conditions” in a tweet on Jan. 13, 2020. The Trump administration has expanded short-term limited-duration health plans that do not offer protections for people with pre-existing conditions or cover essential health benefits. And the administration has sided with Republicans to overturn the healthcare law in its entirety and has been unable to present a comprehensive replacement over the last three years.
The case could now return to the Texas Federal Judge Reed O’Connor to decide if the other decision to overturn the individual mandate and sever it from the healthcare law can stand, or if the mandate cannot be severed and the entire law should be thrown out.