The Supreme Court rejected a major challenge to the Affordable Care Act, dismissing an attempt by Republican states to end the law that, according to the Biden administration, is providing insurance coverage to 31 million Americans.
In a 7-2 ruling issued Thursday, the justices decided that the Republican states challenging the law did not have standing to sue. This is the third time the court has upheld the law. Other challenges came in 2012 — when the court largely upheld the law but blunted its Medicaid expansion — and in 2015.
The latest effort comes after a Republican-led Congress nixed the tax penalty, known as the minimum essential coverage provision, for Americans who did have health insurance in a given tax year. Because the court upheld Obamacare in a prior case by citing Congress’s power to levy taxes, the GOP states claimed that without a tax mandate, the law should not exist. And with a number of Trump-appointed judges on the bench, they thought they had a better chance of success.
But the court, including Trump-nominated Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, decided against their case. Writing for the majority, Justice Steven Breyer said that the GOP states “have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”
In the dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Today’s decision 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 has pulled off an improbable rescue.”
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, was among the most significant pieces of legislation of Barack Obama’s presidency. It expanded access to health insurance for millions of Americans by allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, creating a marketplace with subsidized plans for millions of Americans, and mandating insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.
But insurance companies balked at the pre-existing condition converge, claiming Americans would wait until they became sick to purchase an insurance plan. So Congress included in the law a mandate requiring all Americans to be covered and a tax penalty for those who did not. That penalty was reduced to zero by the GOP-led Congress, which led Republican states to try to overturn it. But once again, the attempts were unsuccessful.
“A big win for the American people,” said President Joe Biden, who called the ACA a “big fucking deal” when it was signed into law, in a statement following the decision. “With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay.”