Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Invalidate Affordable Care Act

Challenge to health-care law comes as pandemic’s economic impact drives millions to lose jobs and coverage. Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Invalidate Affordable Care Act

The Trump administration urged the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in a legal brief filed Thursday, putting health care at center stage in an election year already focused on the coronavirus pandemic’s impact.

The Justice Department said the 2010 health law, a signature achievement of the Obama administration, is invalid because Congress in 2017 ended the financial penalty for not having health insurance, though it didn’t take effect until 2019.

“The entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in the Justice Department’s brief, which was filed late Thursday. “The individual mandate is no longer a valid exercise of Congress’s legislative authority in light of Congress’s elimination of the penalty for noncompliance.”

Supreme Court consideration of the ACA won’t happen until the fall at the earliest, with any decision likely coming after Election Day.

The administration’s continued support for toppling the ACA is a political gamble as jobless claims stabilize around a historic high of about 20 million because of the pandemic. Democrats, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, are seeking to portray President Trump as endangering health coverage at a time when more than 120,000 people have died from coronavirus.

Roberts’s Switch

All five justices who voted to uphold the ACA in 2012 — Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — remain on the court. Roberts switched sides in that case after voting to strike down the individual mandate when the justices took their initial private vote, according to news reports.

The Trump administration has repeatedly changed its stance on what beyond the individual mandate should be thrown out. The Justice Department originally said that only a few other provisions — including the protections for pre-existing conditions — needed to be invalidated. The administration then shifted course and said the entire law should be voided.

The administration then changed positions a second time. The Justice Department told the appeals court the judgment should apply only in the 18 states challenging the law and cover just those provisions that “actually injure” those states. The administration’s brief pointed to anti-fraud provisions in the law as items that probably could be salvaged.

The Supreme Court case is California v. Texas, 19-840.

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