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Supreme Court Sidelines Review of ACA Constitutionality as Law Approaches Ten Years

February 28, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court said it will not fast-track a request by 19 states to take on a decision by a federal appeals court that ruled Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional

Instead, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a U.S. district court to decide whether the entire law needs to be thrown out.

The court’s decision puts a politically heated issue on the back burner at least before the November general election. The Court begins a new term October 1.

In a radio interview, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there is no need now to expedite a replacement plan “unless and until there’s a final Supreme Court decision,” said Azar, which would be “some time away.” 

No Competitive Market

On December 19, 2020, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Conner, stating the “individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power.” 

In its opening summary, the Appeals Court quoted an amicus brief filed by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). The summary stated the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “has deprived patients nationwide of a competitive market for affordable high-deductible health insurance,” and that patients have no alternatives to “skyrocketing premiums.” 

AAPS states the ACA has been unconstitutional from its outset because the federal government has no power to provide medical care or health insurance and the ACA interferes with states’ rights to regulate their insurance markets. 

Ten Years of Obamacare

Obamacare is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2020. Although the law may have increased insurance coverage, it was not because of reform, says Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute who co-wrote “Why Obamacare is Wrong for America” shortly after the ACA became law. 

“The net reduction in the uninsured is almost entirely attributable to making non-disabled adults eligible for Medicaid – a program designed as a safety net for the poor and vulnerable,” Turner stated on the American Healthcare Choices website. “Virtually all of the newly-insured are getting huge government subsidies to underwrite their increasingly expensive coverage.”

 

AnneMarie Schieber (amschieber@heartland.orgis managing editor of Health Care News.

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Health Care Regulation
Author
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.
amschieber@heartland.org @HCPolicy