The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, will be making a return to the highest court in the land in the near future.
According to the Washington Examiner, it was announced Wednesday that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in November in a case challenging Obamacare’s individual mandate and whether the remainder of the law can stand in its absence.
That case, known as California v. Texas, will be heard exactly one week after the election, on Nov. 10, according to a court calendar laying out the schedule for the October term of 2020.
Fate of Obamacare at issue
Readers may recall that the individual mandate of Obamacare — a requirement that all citizens maintain health insurance coverage or pay a penalty — was a sticking point for critics from the very start and was the subject of the initial legal challenge against the law that reached the Supreme Court in 2012.
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the court at that time and declared the penalty to be a tax, thereby preserving the law for the time being, as Politico noted.
Fast-forward to the first part of President Donald Trump’s tenure in office, when the Republican-controlled Congress, as part of its tax reform measures, lowered the individual mandate penalty to zero, effectively eliminating it for all intents and purposes. That, however, prompted the legal question of whether Obamacare could constitutionally stand alone without its foundational mandate.
Red states vs. blue states
With that question in mind, a number of Republican-led states joined Texas in a legal challenge against the rest of Obamacare, a move that was matched by a number of Democrat-led states joining California in defending the law.
A district court in 2018 sided with those challenging the law as unconstitutional without the mandate, a ruling that was later partially upheld by an appeals court panel in 2019, as CNBC reported.
Those judges agreed that the mandate itself was unconstitutional but sent the case back to the lower court for further consideration on whether the remainder of the statute could survive.
However, California and the other states that joined it were successful in appealing the case up to the Supreme Court, which brings us to today.
The timing of when this case will be heard by the Supreme Court is interesting in that it will almost certainly be competing against coverage of the fallout from the presidential election — whichever way it goes, or whether a winner has even been declared by then — for adequate media attention.
Rest assured, however, that there will be plenty of people on both sides of the issue who will be paying very close attention regardless of anything else going on at the time, as the legitimacy and very existence of the controversial law quite likely rests upon this one case.