The court again retained the Affordable Care Act

Opinion analysis

In a highly anticipated decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected another effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is often regarded as a landmark legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama. The judges did not touch on the main issue of the case: when Congress lifted the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance, whether the entire ACA was unconstitutional. instead, The judge ruled by a 7-2 vote Neither the state nor the individual who challenged the task has the legal right to sue, which is called litigation qualification.

Judge Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Two other liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and four conservative justices John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Connie Barrett also joined him. Justice Samuel Alito wrote an objection, and Justice Neil Gorsuch joined.

In many respects, this decision is considered a sequel to the court’s 2012 ruling. National Federation of Independent Enterprises v. SibeliusIn this case, Roberts, along with Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and former Justice Ruth Bud Ginsberg, came to the conclusion that the ACA clause (known as the individual Authorization) is constitutional because it imposes taxes on individuals who fail to comply. But five years later, Congress changed the fine for failing to obtain health insurance, reducing it from $695 to $0.

The change in penalties has led to new constitutional challenges. Texas and some other Republican leaders’ states, as well as two people who did not want to buy health insurance, came to federal court, arguing that the authorization had been reduced to an order to buy health insurance and was unconstitutional because it could no longer be considered A tax. They argued that if the authorization is no longer constitutional, the rest of the ACA must also fall.

A federal district judge in Texas agreed with the challenger that the authorization was unconstitutional because the 2017 penalty change turned the authorization into an “independent order” to purchase health insurance—and Congress has no authority to do so. If there is no authorization, the district court concludes that the entire ACA must fall.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with the District Court’s opinion because the penalty for not obtaining health insurance is now zero and the current version of the authorization is unconstitutional. However, the Court of Appeal stated that the case should be returned to the District Court and instructed to re-examine whether the entire ACA is therefore invalid. The House of Representatives and a group of states led by California have intervened in this case to defend the law, and they asked the Supreme Court to weigh it first. Last year, the judges agreed to do so.

Because ACA is a federal law, the federal government usually defends it throughout the litigation process. But in this case, the role of the federal government is more complicated. In the district court, the Trump administration did not defend the authorization; instead, it believed that the authorization was unconstitutional and should be invalid (along with the other two related clauses), but it urged the district court to leave the rest of the ACA in place. However, in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, the Trump administration agreed with the challenger that the entire ACA should be invalid.

In February, the newly elected Biden administration notified the justices that the federal government had changed its position in this case. In a two-page letter, Deputy Attorney General Edwin Kneedler explained that even after Congress reduced the penalty for failure to obtain insurance to zero, the government still believes that the authorization is consistent with constitution. But if the judge disagrees, Kneedler goes on to say that they should only invalidate the authorization, while the rest of the ACA remains the same.

Unlike the tense 5-4 ruling issued on the last day of the term NFIB In the case, the court’s decision on Thursday was not particularly close: Six judges joined Breyer’s opinion that neither states nor individual plaintiffs are eligible to challenge authorization. Breyer explained that individual plaintiffs argued that they were injured and therefore have the right to file a lawsuit because they must pay monthly medical insurance fees to comply with the regulations. Breyer believes that the problem with this argument is that despite the ACA instructing them to purchase health insurance, the IRS can no longer penalize taxpayers who fail to obtain insurance — and there are no other government actions related to the damage. Individual plaintiffs claim to have suffered pain. , This is a key requirement for prestige.

Breyer went on to say that states are also not eligible to challenge authorization. Although they claimed that they were injured because their residents participated in state-sponsored programs such as Medicaid in order to comply with the mandate, which cost state money, Breyer emphasized that the states did not show the connection between the tasks. Not executable, and decided to enroll.

In his objection, Alito described the court’s ruling as the latest chapter in “our epic trilogy of Affordable Care Act” and lamented that the ruling “follows the same pattern as the first and second parts”: “[W]In view of the serious threat to the Affordable Care Act, the court has completed an impossible rescue operation. “Alito will think that the states have the right to challenge the authorization; then he will rule that the current version of the authorization is unconstitutional, so the rest of the ACA should also be invalid.

This article is Originally published in Howe on the Court.

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