The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, appears likely to stay. During arguments live-streamed to the public in a case seeking to eliminate the ACA, several of the court’s conservatives on Tuesday indicated that they would not strike down the landmark legislation.
Chief Justice John Roberts, the key vote to uphold the ACA in 2012, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh believe the court may toss the individual mandate while leaving the rest of the act standing.
The individual mandate required most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Congress eliminated the monetary penalty in 2017, making a violation inconsequential. The Supreme Court upheld the mandate in 2012 under Congress’s taxing power, but Texas and other Republican-led states argued that since the law originally was upheld as a tax, it became unconstitutional without one – and therefore, the entire law should be stricken.
But Roberts and Kavanaugh indicated that the rest of the 906-page law should survive without the mandate. When Congress repealed the tax penalty in 2017, Roberts said, it did not seek to eliminate the entire law.
“They wanted the court to do that, but that’s not our job,” Roberts said.
And Kavanaugh, a Donald Trump appointee, said, “It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the provision … and leave the rest in place.”
Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, told CNN, “There’s a pretty good sign that there are at least five votes … Kavanaugh, the Chief Justice and the three progressives (Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) to leave the rest of the ACA intact” and that Americans “couldn’t have gotten a clearer statement from the court during this morning’s arguments.”
While Roberts seemed firm, Kavanaugh’s comments do not guarantee a vote to eliminate only the individual mandate. A decision is expected toward the end of June.