Republicans have spent the last few years packing the Supreme Court full of extremely right wing justices and they still haven’t been able to knock down the Patient Protection Act with a legal challenge. This was their third attempt, and it fared even worse than the last two did. Via SCOTUSBlog:
In a much-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected another effort to dismantle the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law often regarded as the signature legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama.
The justices did not reach the main issue in the case: whether the entirety of the [PPA] was rendered unconstitutional when Congress eliminated the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance.
Instead, by a vote of 7–2, the justices ruled that neither the states nor the individuals challenging the mandate have a legal right to sue, known as standing.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion.
He was joined by the other two liberal justices, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as four conservatives: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent and was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch.
“The Constitution gives federal courts the power to adjudicate only genuine ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies,’ ” Justice Breyer wrote, citing Article III, §2.
“That power includes the requirement that litigants have standing. A plaintiff has standing only if he can “allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief.”
“The matter is not simply technical,” Breyer added later in the opinion.
“To find standing here to attack an unenforceable statutory provision would allow a federal court to issue what would amount to ‘an advisory opinion without the possibility of any judicial relief.’ It would threaten to grant unelected judges a general authority to conduct oversight of decisions of the elected branches of Government.” Breyer cited Marshall’s dissent in Los Angeles v. Lyons and Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment to buttress his point.
“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is a major victory for all Americans benefiting from this groundbreaking and life-changing law. It is a victory for more than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and millions more who were in immediate danger of losing their health care in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic,” said President Joe Biden in a statement.
“After more than a decade of attacks on the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act through the Congress and the courts, today’s decision – the third major challenge to the law that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected – it is time [that we] move forward and keep building on this landmark law.”
“That is what we are doing thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which has lowered health care costs and expanded coverage for millions of Americans through the [Patient Protection Act]. More than 1.2 million Americans signed up for coverage under the law through a special enrollment period I established during this pandemic, which people can still sign up for through August 15th. And I look forward to working with the Congress to build on this law so that the American people will continue to have access to quality and affordable health care.”
Democratic state attorneys general vocally celebrated the ruling, which they helped bring about by defending the law when the Trump regime refused to.
“Thanks to today’s Supreme Court victory, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians get to keep their access to affordable health care,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this victory. We will continue fighting for increased access to affordable care.”
“For the past decade, the health care of millions of Americans has been in legal jeopardy. With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court has finally put this issue to rest,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
“If the last federal administration and the states fighting the [PPA] had had their way, millions upon millions of Americans, including many Oregonians, would have been left scrambling for health care. I’m proud of the hard work of the coalition of states that worked together to make sure this system was not dismantled.”
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the ruling would benefit millions of Americans and was in keeping with sound jurisprudence.
“The challenge was based on a shaky legal argument inspired by mean-spirited politics and their instigators who have consistently failed to acknowledge the benefits of the law since it took effect. More Americans today have health coverage and depend on the numerous benefits and protections – especially now, as our country fights through the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kreidler.
NPI is delighted that the Court has turned back this latest ill-conceived challenge to the Patient Protection Act. The last thing the United States needed was for millions of its people to be in danger of losing their healthcare. We need to go forward, not backward. Forward means laying the groundwork for a responsible transition to single payer healthcare (M4A!) that will be truly universal in scope.