Supreme Court will not expedite review of ACA constitutionality


The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 21 denied a motion to accelerate the review of a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the ACA.

The lawsuit, filed by Republican-led states, seeks to invalidate the ACA on the grounds that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and inseverable from the law. It alleges that the mandate became unconstitutional when the associated penalty was zeroed out under the 2017 tax law.

Earlier this month, Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives filed a motion in the Supreme Court, seeking a decision on the case by the end of this term in June. This timeline would put the ACA debate front and center during the 2020 campaign season, and depending on the outcome, would add pressure to the Trump administration to produce an alternative for some of the law's more popular provisions, like its protections for people with preexisting conditions.  

The Democratic-led states filed the motion to expedite the case after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ACA's individual mandate unconstitutional in December. The appeals court did not issue a decision on the severability of the mandate, instead sending that decision back to a lower court for more detailed review. The Democratic state attorneys general felt the directive to parse through the law for severability would prolong uncertainty in the healthcare industry for too long.   

"The uncertainty created by this litigation is especially problematic because individuals, businesses and state and local governments make important decisions in reliance on the ACA," their petition to the Supreme Court read. "Each year, for example, millions of Americans make life-changing decisions — like starting a family or changing jobs — in reliance on the ACA's patient protections and the greater access to affordable healthcare coverage it provides."

The Trump administration, which sided with the Republican-led states in the case, felt a Supreme Court review would be "premature," and no "present, real-world emergency" requires an expedited review.

The court's order indicates a decision is not coming anytime soon. It may still take up the case at a later date.      

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