The justices heard about two hours of arguments by teleconference in an appeal to preserve the ACA by a coalition of Democratic-governed states, including California and New York, and the Democrat-led House of Representatives.
The court’s ruling, which will determine whether to keep intact or dismantle the health care law, is due by the end of June.
Two conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, both asked questions Tuesday regarding the argument that all of the law must be eliminated if just one provision, known as the individual mandate, is found to be unconstitutional. The provision required people to obtain insurance or pay a financial penalty.
“It’s hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire Act to fall if the mandate was struck down,” Roberts said, noting that Congress did not repeal the entire law in 2017 when it eliminated the financial penalty under the individual mandate.
Both justices focused on whether the mandate to buy insurance can be severed from the rest of the law.
“We ask ourselves whether Congress would want the rest of the law to survive if an unconstitutional provision were severed,” Roberts said, noting that Congress in 2017 chose to leave the rest of the law intact. “That seems to be compelling evidence,” Roberts added.
Kavanaugh said that “this is a fairly straightforward case for severability under our precedents, meaning that we would excise the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place.”
Two years ago, Texas and other Republican-governed states sued to strike down the law. President Donald Trump’s administration later backed the effort.
They argued that the 10-year-old statute was rendered unconstitutional in its entirety when Congress dialed down a zero penalty on those remaining uninsured.
President-elect Joe Biden held a news conference Tuesday afternoon about what’s at stake if the act is eliminated, as well as describing his health plan moving forward.
If the act were to be repealed, up to 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance and insurers could once again refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
NewsNation discussed what this ruling could mean with Michele Goodwin, a Law Professor and Director of the Center for Biotechnology & Global Health Policy at University of California, Irvine School of Law. Watch the full interview in the player below.
Since his first campaign for office, Trump has promised quality health care at affordable prices, lower prescription drug costs and more consumer choice. He announced executive orders calling for an end to surprise medical bills and declaring it the policy of the U.S. government to protect people with preexisting conditions, even if the ACA is struck down. However, protections for preexisting conditions are already the law, and Trump would have to go to Congress to cement a new policy through legislation.
Much of the focus during the hearings were focused on newly appointed justice Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett is one of three appointees of President Donald Trump who will be weighing in on the law popularly known as “Obamacare.”
Last month, Senate Democrats grilled now justice Barrett about how she would rule and if pressure from the president would impact her decision.
The Supreme Court previously upheld the law 5-4 in a 2012 ruling. It rejected another challenge by 6-3 in 2015.
Barrett in the past criticized those two rulings in academic journals. Democrats opposing her nomination said she might vote to strike down Obamacare.
The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority after the Republican-led Senate confirmed Barrett last month.