Trump administration and GOP-led states ask Supreme Court to hold off on deciding Obamacare’s fate

February 3, 2020 – The Trump administration and Republican-led states told the Supreme Court on Monday that it should not step in at this time to consider the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Instead, they are asking the high court to allow the case to return to a district judge for further proceedings.

In December, a federal appeals court held that the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional but did not invalidate the entire law, also known as Obamacare, which remains in effect.

Supporters of Obamacare want the justices to step in — before the 2020 election — to hear the case, arguing the lower court opinion would result in a “profound destabilization of the health care system.” The Supreme Court last month rejected one attempt to fast track the issue but could meet by the end of February for further discussions. Critics of the law argue that it should eventually be struck entirely, but they do not want the hot-button issue impacting millions of Americans to come before the justices until after the election.

In Monday’s filings, the government and the states led by Texas said it would be premature for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the law especially because it will remain in place while the appeals process plays out.

“This court should not allow petitioners to leapfrog lower court consideration,” Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, said in the court filing, adding that the case was “unripe for review” at this time. He urged the justices to stay out for the time being.

The justices will meet behind closed doors likely before the end of February to consider the request.

In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the key vote in the landmark 5-4 decision on the act, holding that the individual mandate was valid under Congress’ taxing power. But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress cut the tax penalty for those who lacked insurance to zero as part of the year-end tax overhaul.

Texas sued, arguing that since the mandate was no longer tied to a specific tax penalty, it had lost its legal underpinning. They also argued that because the individual mandate was intertwined with a multitude of other provisions, the entire law should fall, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In the circuit court’s decision in December, the court punted on whether the rest of the massive law — even provisions unrelated to the mandate — could remain on the books. Over 98 pages, the 2-1 appeals court asked a district court to review that issue, infuriating supporters of the law.

In an effort to get the justices to review the lower court’s decision, Donald Verrilli, a lawyer for the Democratic-led House, said in a filing that the law is a “fixture of the American health-care system” and urged the justices in legal briefs to review the “remarkable” lower court decision that “threatens profound destabilization of the health care system.”

“The present case represents yet another effort by litigants who disagree with the policy judgments embodied in the ACA to use the courts, rather than the democratic process, to undo the work of the people’s elected representatives,” the filing stated.

They noted that the law has become embedded in American society with popular provisions, including one that says that the more than 100 million individuals with pre-existing conditions including cancer, diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure could not be denied coverage.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN
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