Trump administration makes case for ACA destruction

June 29, 2020

The Trump administration continues its fight against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration continued its fight to have the Affordable Care (ACA) declared unconstitutional with a last-minute brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25.

The brief asks the court to agree with a panel of appellate judges that the healthcare law, commonly known as Obamacare, is now unconstitutional due to Congress’ 2017 legislation making the individual mandate, a tax penalty for failing to buy health insurance, to $0.

Essentially, the administration’s argument rests on previous court decisions that the law was constitutional because it fell under Congress’ power to levy taxes. Because the tax penalty is now eliminated, the law should no longer be seen as constitutional.

Previously, the individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, the majority chose to return the case to Judge Reed O’Connor in the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, to determine whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law.

In 2018, O’Connor ruled the ACA was unconstitutional because of how central the mandate was to the law, according to a report from The New York Times.

O’Connor’s previous ruling based on Congress’s belief when it enacted the ACA that the individual mandate was a key element to the law that could not be severed from it. He found the mandate unconstitutional because a 2012 Supreme Court decision upheld the mandate, saying that it fell under Congress’ powers over taxation, according to the Times.

When the tax penalty was eliminated in 2017, 20 state attorneys general, the plaintiffs in the case, argued that defense of the law was no longer effective and that the rest of the law should be invalidated along with it. The Department of Justice refused to defend the law, and later joined the plaintiffs in arguing against the law, according to the Times.

The Fifth Circuit decision has since been appealed, thus bringing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court where the health insurance coverage of about 23 million Americans hangs in the balance, according to a Times report.

The fight over the ACA is coming to a head at a time where the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as much of the country has healthcare on the brain. It is unlikely that a decision will come before the 2020 Presidental Election, in which Democrat Joe Biden seeks to unseat President Donald J. Trump, who originally ran on an unsuccessful plan to repeal and replace the law.