NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

United States Supreme Court upholds the Patient Protection Act for the *third* time

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 major­i­ty, con­cur­ring, and dis­sent­ing opin­ions can be read here.

“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.

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