The US Supreme Court, which now includes Trump's latest appointee Amy Coney Barrett, is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a Texas-led lawsuit which is set to partly or completely overturn the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, just a week after Election Day.
The hearing will take place on 10 November, with ACA supporters fearing that the case would result in 20 million Americans losing their government-sponsored health insurance, according to the Guardian.
When passed in 2010, Obamacare endowed millions of uninsured Americans under the age of 65 with less costly access to healthcare and forced insurance companies to provide coverage to people with “pre-existing conditions”. The legislation also allowed parents to keep their children under the health insurance plans until age 26, and obtain birth control and cholesterol checks.
Many Republicans opposed the act, especially its individual mandate provision, which required all Americans able to obtain health insurance who didn't have it to pay a tax penalty, something the GOP considered unfair to taxpayers.
In 2017, the penalty was repelled as part of the Republican tax cut. A year later, a Texas federal judge, cheered on by a coalition of Republican state officials, ruled that the entire Obamacare should be deemed unconstitutional as its central tenet of individual mandate has now fallen, an argument he shared with the Trump administration.
The case then went through the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and will now be presented before nine justices, including Barrett, the majority of whom are politically conservative. The legislators are expected to release their opinion on the case by the first half of 2021.
According to legal observers, the future of Obamacare is at stake now, as justices could either completely erase the law, invalidate some of its parts or continue to uphold ACA even if they rule that the mandate is indeed unconstitutional. For some, Congress’ previous behaviour has demonstrated that it has been reluctant so far to get rid of the law as a whole.
“We have incredibly clear display of Congress’s intention with respect to the rest of the law”, Abbe Gluck, Yale Law School professor told the Guardian. “That is why in this state you see an unusual coupling of conservative and liberal legal experts opposing this lawsuit, because it violates core principles of separation of powers.”
As on 1 November, Americans were able to start signing up for ACA plans for the upcoming year despite the looming hearing and election results, with the Supreme Court decision still on the table regardless of who wins 3 November vote.