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U.S. Supreme Court overturns affordable care law challenge

THURSDAY June 17, 2021 (HealthDay News)

The landmark Affordable Care Act, which extended health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans, has withstood a third challenge in the United States Supreme Court.

In a 7-2 decision, a majority of judges ruled on Thursday that the plaintiffs involved in the case had suffered no prejudice giving them standing, The New York Times reported.

The ruling left a larger question open as to whether Obama-era law could continue without a provision that initially required Americans to purchase insurance or pay a penalty.

Had the court acted to strike down “Obamacare,” around 21 million people who obtained insurance coverage under the plan would have become uninsured, according to recent estimates from the Urban Institute, the Time mentionned.

The American Medical Association (AMA) applauded the decision.

“Today’s United States Supreme Court ruling is a victory for patients and for the gains in health care coverage achieved through the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said the President AMA’s Dr. Gerald Harmon in a statement.

“With another court ruling now behind us, we remain committed to strengthening the current law and look forward to policymakers coming up with solutions to improve ACA,” Harmon added. “WADA will continue to work to expand access to health care and ensure that all Americans have meaningful, comprehensive and affordable health coverage to improve the health of the nation.”

The Supreme Court’s latest ruling marks the third time the Supreme Court has ruled on ACA challenges: it overturned two earlier challenges filed in 2012 and 2015. Numerous attempts by Republicans in Congress to repeal the legislation have also failed.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would disproportionately affect health coverage for low-income adults, who have benefited most from the expansion of Medicaid implemented by law. Millions of young adults under the age of 26 have also reportedly lost their insurance coverage, as Obamacare allows them to be covered by their parents’ plans. Low-income families can also get help paying for private insurance premiums under the provisions of the law.

Protection under the ACA has also helped protect the millions of Americans with current or past health problems, as it requires insurers not to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The case deliberated this time by the court’s nine judges was California v Texas, No. 19-840. According to Time, the case was raised by Republican officials. They claimed that the ACA’s mandate requiring coverage became unconstitutional following congressional action in 2017 to eliminate the penalty for failure to cover. According to the complainants, the warrant could therefore no longer be justified as a tax.

This argument was based on a SCOTUS 5-4 decision in 2012, which concluded that the mandate was authorized by the power of Congress to assess taxes.

On the basis of this argument, the new challenge successfully imposed itself in the lower courts. But the High Court ruled that no prejudice had been caused to the plaintiffs during the removal of the warrant and dismissed the latest challenge.

More information

Learn more about the Affordable Care Act at US Department of Health and Human Services.

SOURCE: The New York Times; American Medical Association, press release, June 17, 2021

Ernie Mundell


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