Once again, the Supreme Court has decided to pass on a definitive ruling on whether Obamacare is constitutional or not. The court heard a suit brought by 18 Republican attorneys general claiming that Obamacare should be scrapped because changes made by the Republican Congress in 2017 made it unconstitutional and the rest of the law couldn’t be salvaged.
But the court, with Justices Alito and Gorsuch dissenting, ruled 7-2 on Thursday that the states had no standing to sue in the first place. This made the rest of the suit moot.
“A big win for the American people. There’s no better day than today to sign up for quality, affordable health care at http://HealthCare.gov. With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” Biden tweeted after the court’s decision.
Justice William Breyer wrote for the majority, saying, “Neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have shown that the injury they will suffer or have suffered is ‘fairly traceable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ of which they complain.”
“With the penalty zeroed out, the IRS can no longer seek a penalty from those who fail to comply,” Breyer wrote. “Because of this, there is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance.”
Justice Thomas, one of the fiercest critics of Obamacare, wrote that the suit was ill-advised.
“This Court has gone to great lengths to rescue the Act from its own text,” he wrote of the previous decisions. But he added that Thursday’s result is “not the consequence of the Court once again rescuing the Act, but rather of us adjudicating the particular claims the plaintiffs chose to bring.”
Alito, joined by Gorsuch, disagreed
“Today’s decision is the third installment in our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy, and it follows the same pattern as installments one and two,” he wrote. “In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act facing a serious threat, the Court has pulled off an improbable rescue.”
With 20 million people now getting Obamacare insurance and subsidies, it was never likely that the court would declare the law null and void. The Supreme Court must operate in the real world. And in the real world, you can’t remove 20 million people from their insurance in the midst of a pandemic.
There are no other court cases on the horizon that challenge Obamacare so directly. Individuals and states may nibble at its edges by winning some cases that deal with the margins of the law, but the effort at repeal is dead.
Even when Republicans had a majority, they could never pull the trigger on repeal. They never even tried to replace it, either. The American people are stuck with Obamacare. And if the radicals get their way, Obamacare will become the basis for a government-run health care system.
And Republicans will have only themselves to blame.