WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Republican offer backed by the administration of former President Donald Trumps to strike down Obamacare, preserving the landmark health care law for the third time since it was enacted in 2010 .
The 7-2 decision said Texas and other challengers lacked the legal capacity to take legal action to overturn a law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which has enabled millions of Americans obtain medical coverage through public programs or private insurers. The decision was drafted by Liberal Judge Stephen Breyer.
The judges did not decide the broader legal questions raised in the case about whether a key Obamacare provision was unconstitutional and, if so, whether the rest of the law should be struck down. The provision, called an individual warrant, originally required Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty.
Today’s US Supreme Court ruling is a major victory for all Americans benefiting from this groundbreaking and life-changing law, said Democratic President Joe Biden, whose administration objected At the trial.
With three major challenges for Obamacare now having been resolved by the judges, Biden added, it is time to move forward and continue to build on this landmark law. Biden also encouraged more Americans to use Obamacare for coverage.
Poll data has shown that Obamacare has become increasingly popular among Americans, including Republicans.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who led the challenge, has vowed to continue fighting Obamacare. The individual mandate, Paxton wrote on Twitter, was unconstitutional when enacted and is still unconstitutional.
The law was the iconic domestic policy achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president.
This decision reaffirms what we have long known to be true: The Affordable Care Act is here to stay, Obama said.
Breyer wrote that none of the challengers, including Texas and 17 other states and individual plaintiffs, could trace legal prejudice to the individual tenure, in part because a Republican-backed tax law signed by Trump in 2017 had erased the financial penalty.
Unsurprisingly, states have failed to demonstrate that an unenforceable tenure will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefit programs that they would otherwise forgo, Breyer wrote.
Twenty states, including Democratic-ruled California and New York and the Democratic-led House of Representatives, intervened in the case to try to preserve Obamacare after Trump refused to defend the law.
Conservative justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch opposed the ruling. Alito called the decision an example of judicial inventiveness and called the individual mandate clearly unconstitutional.
FILE PHOTO: The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, United States, May 17, 2021. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / File Photo
Republicans fiercely opposed Obamacare when it was proposed, failed to repeal it when they controlled both houses of Congress, and failed to get the courts to strike down the law, including in the Supreme Court decisions of 2012 and 2015.
In February, the Bidens administration urged the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare, reversing the position taken by the Trump administration, which left office in January.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump-appointed person whose 2020 confirmation hearing included questions from Democrats about her vote to invalidate Obamacare, joined the majority in the decision.
If Obamacare had been canceled, up to 20 million Americans were at risk of losing their medical insurance, and insurers could again have refused to cover people with pre-existing health conditions. Obamacare expanded the state’s federal health care Medicaid program and created markets for private insurance.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, called the decision a victory for Democrats ‘work to defend protections for people with pre-existing ailments against Republicans’ relentless efforts to dismantle them.
Biden is committed to expanding access to healthcare and strengthening Obamacare. He and other Democrats had criticized Republicans’ efforts against Obamacare at a time when the United States was grappling with a deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority, Obamacare’s Republican challengers came out disappointed in a ruling in which the three liberal justices were joined by four of six conservative justices. Opposition to Obamacare appears to have receded as a political issue for many Republicans, as their party has focused on other issues such as immigration, voting restrictions and culture war issues.
The Supreme Court previously upheld Obamacare by treating the financial penalty under the individual mandate as a tax permitted under language in the U.S. Constitution allowing Congress to levy taxes. The elimination of penalties in 2017 meant that the individual mandate could no longer be interpreted as a tax provision and was therefore illegal, the Republican challengers argued.
A Texas federal judge ruled in 2018 that Obamacare, as structured following the 2017 change, violated the Constitution and was invalid in its entirety. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Court of Appeals agreed that the individual warrant was unconstitutional, but did not rule that the entire law should be struck down.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reports by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Will Dunham
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