The Supreme Court announced the highly anticipated ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ‘Obamacare.’ The case, California v. Texas, looked at the Constitutionality of the ACA and whether the individual mandate, $695 in the beginning and eventually set to $0, imposed can still be considered a suable injury. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Plaintiffs don’t have standing.
The Court wrote that the ACA “enacted in 2010 required most Americans to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage and imposed a monetary penalty upon most individuals who failed to do so.” When Trump came into office, he instructed the Republicans in Congress to pass an Amendment that would negate the imposed penalty. Congress agreed and passed an amendment to the ACA that put the fine at $0.
This triggered the California v. Texas case, which eventually was argued before the Supreme Court on November 10, 2020. The Court wrote, “Texas (along with over a dozen States and two individuals) brought suit against federal officials, claiming that without the penalty the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision, …, is unconstitutional.”
A Texas District Court and the Fifth Circuit Court agreed with Texas that the Plaintiffs had standing to bring the suit and that the mandate was unconstitutional. However, in a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court disagreed.
“Held: Plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge §5000A(a)’s minimum essential coverage provision because they have not shown a past or future injury fairly traceable to defendants’ conduct enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”
The Court stated that as long as the fine is unenforceable, there is not a case with sufficient standing to take on the “redressability requirement.” It said, “Whether an injury is redressable depends on the relationship between “the judicial relief requested” and the “injury” suffered.” The case against federal officials falls apart after Congress nullified the penalty.
“The only relief sought regarding the minimum essential coverage provision is declaratory relief, namely, a judicial statement that the provision challenged is unconstitutional. But just like suits for every other type of remedy, declaratory-judgment actions must satisfy Article III’s case-or-controversy requirement.”
The Court ruled that since the case had no “remedy” for the Plaintiffs other than “declaratory judgment,” the Supreme Court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to “issue what would amount to an advisory opinion without the possibility of an Article III remedy.”
The Plaintiffs attempted to prove they incurred two types of injury because of the ACA. First, the Plaintiffs argue that they sustained “indirect injury in the form of increased costs to run state-operated medical insurance programs.” To this claim, the Court reasoned that the individual mandate is now unenforceable, and therefore, the Plaintiffs can’t prove that this will lead to more people signing up and putting a burden on the State.
The Plaintiffs argued that the second injury was “a direct injury resulting from a variety of increased administrative and related expenses allegedly required by the §5000A(a)’s minimum essential coverage provision.” The Court claimed that the State’s proposed injuries are not enforced with §5000A(a), but rather the injuries are enforced through separate provisions in the ACA not currently under question in the suit. “A conclusion that the minimum essential coverage requirement is unconstitutional would not show that enforcement of these other provisions violates the Constitution.”
Although Conservative stronghold Justice Thomas did agree with the 7-2 ruling, he didn’t stop his characterization of the Supreme Court’s role in keeping Obamacare alive. He wrote, “This Court has gone to great lengths to rescue the Act from its own text. So have the Act’s defenders, who argued in first instance that the individual coverage mandate is the Act’s linchpin, yet now, in an about-face, contend that it is just a throwaway sentence.”
Justice Thomas then goes on to defend his vote, saying that this case must be addressed on its own and not a part of the other actions of the Court. He wrote, “Today’s result is thus not the consequence of the Court once again rescuing the Act, but rather of us adjudicating the particular claims the Plaintiffs chose to bring.”
The Plaintiffs were kicked out of Court before the doors even opened. While frustrating for those that want to see Obamacare gone for good, the door is still open to taking down the ACA once and for all.
Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas was the lead on the case. AG Paxton released a statement promising to continue. “Obamacare was sold on a lie to the American people,” said AG Paxton. “Its crown jewel – the individual mandate – was unconstitutional. Yet, seven justices decided to avoid the question of the constitutionality by limiting its decision to a ruling on standing.”
“If the government is allowed to mislead its citizens, pass a massive government takeover of health care, and yet still survive after Supreme Court review, this spells doom for the principles of federalism and limited government.”
To Paxton’s point, it seems the only people in America worried about individual freedoms are the citizens. The government is only interested in more power.