U.S. Supreme Court to hear Obamacare appeal

March 2, 2020

The healthcare law has already survived two trips to the high court, but the third time might be the charm for conservatives.

Once again, the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lies in the hands of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a report in The New York Times.

The court announced it will hear the appeal of a lower court’s December ruling that the law’s provision requiring all Americans to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty was unconstitutional. That lower court, a panel of appellate judges, had remanded the case back to Judge Reed O’Connor in the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, to determine whether the provision could be severed from the law or if the whole ACA must be scrapped.

This is the third appeal of the controversial healthcare law that has reached the high court, after Republican attempts to have it stricken in 2012 and 2015.

The 2012 case is tied to the current appeal as it addressed Congress’ authority to impose the tax penalty as part of the body’s power to assess taxes. In that case, defenders of the law argued that the mandate is necessary to the law as it allowed the other components of the law to function.

That argument became a liability in 2017 when Republicans in Congress lowered the tax penalty to $0 as part of a tax overhaul after failing to repeal and replace the law despite holding both houses of the legislative body and the presidency.

Justices previously denied an attempt by proponents of the law to have the case heard on an accelerated track, leaving the results of their deliberation likely to come after the 2020 presidential election which will likely focus on healthcare in the country. Democratic presidential hopefuls have made much of their plans for healthcare and whomever the nominee is for the 2020 general election will undoubtedly run on those plans. President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly promised healthcare reforms but has until now only made minor progress issuing executive orders about price transparency and prescription drug importation.

Further complicating matters, the world seems racked with anxiety over fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus which has, as of March 2, claimed the lives of two Americans near Seattle, Washington, and more than 3,000 people worldwide. With the CDC predicting the spread of the disease in the U.S., some are left wondering how uninsured citizens infected with the disease will pay for their care.