Hello, old friend — here we are again!
Since the ACA was passed in 2010, it has endured some pretty hard-charging court challenges. We wrote extensively about this most recent court challenge (Texas v. U.S.) last year.
The One Where the ACA Goes to the Supreme Court
Some background – the United States Supreme Court’s nine-month term starts in October and generally concludes by the end of June. At the beginning of June, the court still had quite a few cases left to decide, including California v. Texas., as the case was known in the Supreme Court (It was called Texas v. U.S. in lower courts).
We’ve been waiting to hear what SCOTUS would say, and, today, the esteemed justices issued their ruling.
But something unusual happened.
Before we get to that, know that the justices did not do anything to diminish the power and authority of the law. Nor did they do anything that would threaten the health insurance of the 22 million Medicaid recipients. Nor the 10 million healthcare.gov customers nationwide who owe their health insurance coverage LARGELY to the money distributed to the states and individuals by the ACA. So, if you are receiving Medicaid from the state of Louisiana, or federal Advanced Premium Tax Credits from Healthcare.gov to help with your insurance, your coverage will not be affected by the Supreme Court’s action.
The unusual part about this case was that the nine sitting justices refused to offer any thoughts, or decisions, on the meat of the case. They didn’t opine or write or say anything in their decision about the main issue in the case, which revolved around the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate rules.
Instead, what they did was offer an analysis of whether or not the individuals suing the government (12 state attorney generals and some private citizens, called the “Texas Group”) had been damaged by the ACA’s individual mandate or its reduction as a fine to $0 as an infraction.
According to the Supreme Court (by a vote of 7 to 2), the people bringing the case, which has stretched on in the federal court system for years, NEVER had the right to bring the case in the first place. In the Supreme Court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were not damaged enough by the law or changes to the law. This is called “standing,” as in, “Did the plaintiffs have the standing to bring this case to court in the first place?” And the ultimate decision was “No, they did not.” That stopped the Supreme Court’s analysis immediately.
The One with the Non-Decision Decision
This is an interesting decision for a couple of reasons.
- First, this case was heard initially by a federal district judge and appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. BOTH the lower courts said the people bringing the lawsuit DID have standing. The Supreme Court disagreed with both.
- Second, by denying the Texas group standing, the justices managed to avoid having to declare whether the ACA is constitutional or not. In other words, all of the original questions that were the crux of the lawsuit against the ACA weren’t refuted, confirmed or decided at all. They were simply ignored and there will be no Supreme Court ruling on the merits of this case at all. The justices managed to avoid a VERY sticky wicket by doing this.
Imagine if you knew that a law providing free or heavily subsidized health insurance for over 30 million people was NOT constitutional. Would YOU be in a hurry to toss it out? I sure wouldn’t. But, that’s an argument for another day. I’m not determining whether the ACA is constitutional or not, by the way. Just spit-balling here.
For now, we are quite glad that the 600,000+ Louisianians who are enjoying free Medicaid coverage today due to the ACA’s expansion of that program and the nearly 100,000 Louisianans who are enjoying heavily subsidized individual private coverage from companies like Blue Cross and Vantage Health get to keep their insurance coverage with no changes!
Straight Talk is, carry on. Nothing has changed, and that’s good news in this case for a ton of people!