The fate of Obamacare will again go before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with the health care of millions of Americans potentially hanging in the balance.
For the third time in its 10-year life, the Affordable Care Act will be litigated before the highest court in the land, in the case of California v. Texas.
At the heart of the case is the question of whether a 2017 tax cut package that eliminated Obamacare’s monetary penalty for not having health insurance renders the whole program unconstitutional.
A Republican coalition of 18 states, led by Texas, contends that it does, citing a previous Supreme Court ruling that the now-eliminated financial penalty is what made Obamacare’s coverage mandate constitutional.
In opposition is a group of 20 Democratic states, led by California, contending that what remains of Obamacare is legal, viable and essential to millions of Americans who rely on it for health insurance.
They argue that, with the penalty removed, Obamacare is no longer a mandate compelling Americans to do anything, as Republicans claim.
While the landmark legislation has survived two previous challenges in the Supreme Court, the newest case will be the first to go before a now conservative-leaning panel bolstered by three appointees of President Trump: Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.
How Barrett might rule in California v. Texas factored heavily into Democrats’ grilling during her confirmation hearings last month, but she declined repeatedly to telegraph her intentions, only saying that Trump had not asked her for any assurances and she would not have given any.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the case, Trump will likely not be in the Oval Office to see it, as the Court is not expected to rule until the spring.
Should Obamacare survive the hearing, Joe Biden, the president-elect who served as vice president under the plan’s namesake, has vowed to re-tool and expand it.
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