U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Affordable Care Act Challenge

In March the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a major challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA, sometimes called Obamacare, is the federal health care reform law, that, among other things, significantly expanded access to Medicaid and private health insurance while ensuring that people with health insurance get certain essential benefits and are not discriminated against because of preexisting health conditions.

The case the Supreme Court will hear involves two major issues:  Whether the ACA’s “individual mandate”—the requirement that taxpayers and their families have health insurance—is unconstitutional since Congress eliminated the penalty for not purchasing insurance.  The other issue is if the individual mandate is unconstitutional, whether the ACA is entirely invalid.

Arguments in the case are expected before the general election this year, but a decision by the Supreme Court is not likely until 2021.  PHLP is closely following the case because of our concern for the fate of the ACA overall and the approximately 700,000 Pennsylvanians able to access health insurance through Medicaid because of the ACA, a number that is sure to grow amidst the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The case, Texas v. United States, is being pursued by 18 Republican state governors and attorneys general and two individuals and is not being defended by the federal government, as would normally happen when a U.S. government program is challenged.  Instead, 21 Democratic state attorneys general, supported by the U.S. House of Representatives are defending the lawsuit and the Affordable Care Act.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not involved in the case. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation released at excellent article about the Coronavirus Response and the ACA.  “At a moment when anxiety over coronavirus is paramount, it is worth noting on the Affordable Care Act’s tenth anniversary that it will provide important coverage and access protections in this pivotal moment.  The ACA still has its critics and challenges, but this would be the worst time to pull out a substantial health care safety net or consider a replacement.” 

PHLP will update its website and newsletter as we learn more.