On 17 June, the US Supreme Court rejected a Republican bid backed by Donald Trump's administration to invalidate the Obamacare healthcare law, saying that challengers had no legal standing to file the lawsuit. This is the third time the court has preserved Obamacare since its 2010 enactment.
The court upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in a 7-2 decision overseen by Justice Stephen Breyer.
“They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision. Therefore, we reverse the Fifth Circuit’s judgment in respect to standing, vacate the judgment, and remand the case with instructions to dismiss,” Breyer wrote in the court’s opinion.
The 18 states, led by Texas, had argued that the penalty imposed on those who do not have minimum essential health insurance coverage – which was reduced to $0 back in 2017 – is unconstitutional. As such, they argued that the whole piece of legislation should be thrown out, because the penalty is not severable from the rest of the act.
The opinion of Breyer, with whom Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in his own written opinion, asserted that the plaintiffs failed to show a specific injury traceable to the Obamacare penalty provision. Because the Constitution only gives the Supreme Court authority to resolve “cases” or “controversies,” the justices cannot rule in favour of the plaintiffs, they wrote.
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, however, dissented from the court’s majority opinion. “Because the mandate is unlawful and because the injury-causing provisions are inextricably linked to the mandate, the federal defendants cannot enforce those provisions against the state plaintiffs,” Alito wrote, adding that “the state plaintiffs are entitled to a judgment providing as much.”
The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is a US federal statute signed into law by former US President Barack Obama in 2010. Obamacare aims to provide affordable health insurance coverage for Americans.
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.