The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in California v. Texas, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A coalition of governors and attorney generals filed this lawsuit in early 2018 in an attempt to dismantle, or completely erase the ACA.
The current lawsuit is stating that the individual mandate, even with a $0 penalty, is unconstitutional. If the highest court in the land decides that the mandate is unconstitutional, then the question remains as to if the mandate can be removed from the ACA. If the mandate cannot be separated, then the court could rule that the entire ACA is unconstitutional.
Opponents of the lawsuit say that over 130 million people could lose healthcare coverage if that happens.
“The Affordable Care Act has provided millions of Virginians with access to quality, affordable health care and coverage for pre-existing conditions,” said Mark Herring (D), the Attorney General for Virginia. “I am incredibly proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to protect our country’s health care system from these political attacks and I feel confident that we will succeed following today’s arguments.”
The plaintiffs in the case are arguing that due to the Jobs Act and tax cuts in 2017 making the penalty $0 for not purchasing a minimal form of healthcare, the mandate itself is now unconstitutional.
Several analysts of the court say that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh both signaled that they are open to separating the mandate from the ACA, providing optimism to the defendants. This would keep the core aspects of the Affordable Care Act in place.
“Today, I think the winner in this case was the Affordable Care Act and Congress,” Michele Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said in an interview with CNBC after the arguments concluded.
The court could rule on the case at any time, but a decision is not expected until 2021.
“Today’s arguments could have life or death consequences by deciding the fate of health care for tens of millions of Americans, who would not have coverage without the Affordable Care Act,” said Herring.
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