The Trump administration is standing firm on its position that Obamacare should be invalidated, telling the Supreme Court in its opening brief the law is tied to one provision that’s now unconstitutional.
The Department of Justice said the entire Affordable Care Act “must fall with the individual mandate” to buy insurance, but said the “scope of relief entered in this case should be limited to provisions shown to injure” the individuals challenging the law.
The justices are set to hear arguments next term, beginning in October, in the high stakes fight over the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature health-care law.
A group of Democratic states are appealing a Fifth Circuit decision that left the fate of the law in limbo. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said the provision requiring everyone to buy insurance is unconstitutional because the 2017 Congress dropped the penalty for those that fail to comply down to $0. Without a penalty, the court said the provision was no longer a valid exercise of Congress’s taxing power.
But the court failed to answer a major question—whether the rest of the law can survive without that provision or if the entire law is tied to it and therefore unconstitutional too. Instead, the court kicked that question back to the federal judge in Texas who had already found the entire law unconstitutional.
A coalition of GOP-led states, which challenged the law alongside two individuals, told the court in its opening brief that the statutory text directs this court to declare the remaining major and minor provisions of the ACA unconstitutional.
“Both Congress and the Department of Justice have repeatedly described the mandate as essential to the ACA’s community-rating and guaranteed-issue provisions. And this Court has observed that those provisions ‘would not work’ without the mandate,” the GOP states argued.
The community rating provision prevents health insurers from varying premiums or denying within a geographic area based on age, gender, or health status. The guaranteed-issue requires insures to provide coverage regardless of preexisting conditions.
“Once the individual mandate and the guaranteed issue, and community-rating provisions are invalidated, the remainder of the ACA should not be allowed to remain in effect,” DOJ argued in its brief.
The GOP states repeatedly refer to the mandate as the third leg of a three-legged stool that causes the ACA to collapse if removed.
“The ACA’s text confirms that ‘the requirement [to buy health insurance] is essential to creating effective health insurance markets,’” the states argue.
The GOP-led coalition criticized the Democratic states in their brief for citing the pandemic as a key reason to uphold the law.
“In the end, petitioners defend the ACA as good policy, citing the current pandemic,” they said. “Not only are those policy arguments incorrect, but they miss the point.”