The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act, choosing to take up the controversial Obama-era health care law for a third time. But it doesn't look like the case will muddy the 2020 election since the court probably won't make a decision until next year.
The court heard appeals from 20 states, primarily Democratic and of a lower-court ruling which identified part of the statute as unconstitutional. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) argued that there are major concerns over the case, arguing that it should not carry on for months or years in lower courts.
This will be the third major Supreme Court case over the health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare since 2010. Notably, Chief Justice John Roberts sided twice with the court's liberals in 2012, right in the middle of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Congressional withdrawal of the law nearly failed in 2017 when the Republicans controlled the House and the Senate. Nearly 20 million people are covered through the ACA, including its subsidized private insurance and Medicaid expansion.
The states in question requested the the review be expedited with a ruling before the November 2020 elections. But the justices will likely hear arguments in the fall and make a decision in the spring of 2021.
The Supreme Court action removes the case from the hands of a federal district judge in Texas who had earlier overturned the law.
The case resulted from the 2017 approval of a tax law requiring that all Americans carry health insurance but removed the fine for not obtaining insurance.
Texas and other Republican-led states filed a lawsuit, stating that the removal of penalties made the requirement unconstitutional. US District Judge Reed O'Connor consented and included that the requirement was so important that the rest of the law would fail without it.
Even though the health care law's requirements were found to be unconstitutional, the appeals court overlooked safeguards for those with preexisting conditions, Medicaid expansion and coverage for adults up to age 26 on their parents' insurance policy. The 5th Circuit returned the case to O'Connor to decide if other portions of the law can be removed from the insurance obligation and remain active.
In addition to increasing insurance coverage, the 900-page law reflected changed to other programs, including Medicare, health centers and fighting medical fraud. Deciding whether certain provisions would stay in effect and if others would abide by the insurance requirements would be an enormous effort.
Justices on Monday approved of two of the appeals. Concerns over the requirements and with the accuracy of the entire law were presented to the court.
The high court also failed to act on another appeal submitted by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
For the more than 20 million people covered under "Obamacare," nothing changes while the Supreme Court deliberates. The law's subsidized private insurance coverage and Medicaid expansion remain in place while the issues are litigated again.