Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
I have already subscribed | Do not show this message again
Your email has been successfully registered.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is set to hear arguments in a bid by Republican-governed states backed by President Donald Trump’s administration to strike down the Obamacare healthcare law, even as Joe Biden prepares to replace Trump in January.
One of the priorities set by the Democrat President-elect Joe Biden is expanding healthcare access and the Obamacare plan's reinforcement; a 2010 law formally called Affordable Care Act that Republicans have for years sought to invalidate. The law was the signature domestic policy achievement of former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president.
Although the court now has a 6-3 conservative majority primarily due to the Senate confirmation last month of Trump’s third appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, most legal experts think it would not go as far as striking down the entire law over one debatable clause. The Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 fended off previous Republican challenges to Obamacare.
Biden and other Democrats have criticized Republican efforts to strike down the law amid a deadly coronavirus pandemic.
If Obamacare were to be struck down, up to 20 million Americans could lose their medical insurance, and insurers could once again refuse to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. Obamacare expanded public healthcare programs and created marketplaces for private insurance.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and fellow Democrats made it clear that their opposition to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, will focus on the possibility she could cast a decisive vote to strike down the Obamacare health law pic.twitter.com/jVoFNmXU36
“Abolishing the Affordable Care Act would be deeply damaging to the American health care system and public health,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit American Public Health Association, said in a statement.
The justices will hear an expanded 80-minute oral argument by teleconference due to the pandemic. Last March, they agreed to hear an appeal filed by a coalition of Democratic-led states and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives defending Obamacare.
The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld most Obamacare provisions, including the individual mandate, which required people to obtain insurance or pay a financial penalty. The court defined this penalty as a tax and thus found the law permissible under the Constitution’s provision empowering Congress to levy taxes.
In 2017, Trump signed a Republican-backed tax law that eliminated individual mandate's financial penalty, giving rise to the Republican lawsuit. The tax law meant the individual mandate could no longer be interpreted as a tax provision and was therefore unlawful, the Republican challengers argued.
Democrats made the Republican threat to Obamacare a central feature of their opposition to Barrett’s confirmation to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In recent cases, with conservative justices in the majority, the court has declined to strike down an entire statute just because one part was unlawful.