Texas and other Republican-led states ripped the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, arguing Thursday’s ruling ignored the core issue of whether “ObamaCare” was constitutional.
The justices voted 7-2 to reject the challenge from a coalition of 18 states and two individuals, marking the third time a GOP-led effort to overturn ObamaCare failed in the Supreme Court. In their decision, the justices determined that states lacked the standing to bring their case to federal court.
The states’ case hinged on ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which required most Americans to have health insurance or face penalties. Republicans argued that the mandate became unconstitutional when Congress eliminated the penalty in 2017, asserting the rest of the law should be struck down as a result.
“ObamaCare was sold on a lie to the American people. Its crown jewel – the individual mandate – was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “Yet, seven justices decided to avoid the question of the constitutionality by limiting its decision to a ruling on standing.”
“If the government is allowed to mislead its citizens, pass a massive government takeover of health care, and yet still survive after Supreme Court review, this spells doom for the principles of federalism and limited government.”
President Biden has pledged to expand the Affordable Care Act, which was first enacted during the Obama administration in 2010. Biden officials say the law provides health care coverage to 31 million Americans who would not otherwise be covered.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his state was “deeply disappointed that the court ducked the question about the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate.”
“This case was always about: one, ensuring that individuals could not be coerced into purchasing health insurance against their will; and, two, making the insurance system far more affordable for hard-working Americans,” Morrisey said. “Too many West Virginians have suffered from skyrocketing premiums and need better, more affordable health care options. We will keep fighting for affordable coverage and against coercive, individual mandates that represent the opposite of freedom.”
“At no point in today’s decision do the Supreme Court justices address the merits of our argument that ObamaCare is unconstitutional,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans deserve better, and I will continue to urge Congress to establish a comprehensive health care law that will allow states to be flexible while ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the lawsuit was “an invitation to judicial activism from the start.”
“While SCOTUS never reached the constitutional issues, I am happy that its decision did no harm to our people,” he added.
The court determined that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated any past or future harm in their legal challenge. Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the individual mandate was effectively unenforceable without an attached penalty and therefore did not cause harm.
President Biden lauded the court’s ruling.
“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” Biden said. “Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is a major victory for all Americans benefiting from this groundbreaking and life-changing law.”