Even with a conservative majority, most judges don't seem satisfied with the idea that any single aspect of Obamacare could or should invalidate the entire law.
The US Supreme Court is unlikely to restrict the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The lawsuit against the ACA was filed by the Trump administration along with 17 Republican attorneys general, according to Reuters.
While the Supreme Court is now controlled by a pleasantly Conservative majority, the judges were skeptical of the Republicans' initial arguments. According to Reuters, neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed inclined to accept the Trump administration's claim that if any aspect of Obamacare is found unconstitutional, the entire act must be invalidated.
According to Reuters, the so-called individual mandate is of central importance.
The individual mandate – which has since been cut – required Americans either to get health insurance each year or to pay a fine if they weren't insured.
When Donald Trump took office in 2017, he signed a law revoking his mandate. Republicans have since argued that the revocation of the individual mandate "removes the constitutional justification for the provision that is allowed under the powers of Congress to collect taxes".
However, Chief Justice Roberts asked why Congress didn't simply repeal the entire Affordable Care Act when it removed the penalty for the individual mandate.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh; Image of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons: "You have a hard time arguing that Congress intended that all law should fall if the mandate were broken," Roberts said.
Vox.com notes that the lawsuit's focus on the individual mandate is a bit strange, precisely for the reason that Congress and President Trump cut it out in 2017.
Although the mandate is no longer active, Conservative attorneys general have advanced an argument that centers on the wording of the Affordable Care Act. For example, the first subsection of the Obamacare single mandate clause states that most people must “get” insurance; The second is that people who do not have insurance will have to pay a fine. and the third subsection specifies the amount for a penalty, which is now zero dollars.
The Trump administration has stated that the inclusion of the word "should" is a legally binding requirement that essentially compels Americans to purchase health insurance even if the penalty for refusal doesn't pass.
However, in previous Affordable Care Act cases, the Supreme Court found that the lack of an actual legal penalty negates plaintiffs' claims of unconstitutionality.
"Neither the Affordable Care Act, nor any other statute, provides any negative legal consequences for failing to obtain health insurance other than requiring payment to the IRS," wrote Chief Justice Roberts in 2012. "The government agrees and agrees confirms this when someone chooses it. " You pay instead of health insurance and you have fully complied with the law. "
Now that the payment for non-compliance is gone, there is virtually no penalty for refusing to comply with the ACA's individual mandate.
Vox.com notes that an argument must be made about severability, or the process by which courts, after finding any part of a law illegal, unconstitutional, or otherwise unusable, must determine what the intention of Congress was to Write laws or make policy changes.
Separability may not offer Republicans much, however, as Congress – despite all Conservative speeches about the complete eradication of Obamacare – has managed to achieve something other than the revocation of the individual mandate.
"We wonder," said Roberts, "if Congress wants the rest of the law to survive if an unconstitutional provision is repealed."
The fact that Congress left most of the ACA intact in 2017, added Roberts, "seems to be convincing evidence" that Obamacare should not be invalidated immediately.
Justice Kavanaugh also opined that "this is a pretty straightforward case of severability under our precedents, which means we would cut out the [individual] mandate and leave the rest of the law in place."
Reuters notes that in addition to hearing the Republicans' arguments, the Supreme Court has also allowed contributions from a coalition of democratically controlled states.
After a dispute, President-elect Joe Biden condemned the right-wing lawsuit as "simply cruel and unnecessarily divisive".
"That argument will determine whether [the] health insurance of more than 20 million Americans who bought them under the Affordable Care Act will be ripped away in the middle of the worst pandemic in the country in a century," Biden said at a news conference.
Biden further pledged to expand the Affordable Care Act after he took office to ensure more Americans than ever have access to health care.
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