Ever since it was first passed into law nearly a decade ago, conservatives have argued that the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is fundamentally unconstitutional. Responding to those cries, President Donald Trump has made it a priority to see Obamacare be done away with, either by way of the courts or via legislation.
Now, the end of Obamacare could finally be drawing near. The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a major case on the healthcare law that could result in the whole thing being declared unconstitutional and thrown out, the Washington Examiner reported.
While arguments for the case will likely not be heard until the fall term, the case is poised to be a huge talking point for both sides of the political divide in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
A question of constitutionality
Texas v. Azar involves a number of Republican-led states that argued that the entirety of Obamacare should be struck down as unconstitutional, given the fact that a key component of the law, the individual mandate and associated tax penalty, was essentially rendered null and void by Trump’s 2017 tax cut legislation.
A federal district court judge in Texas agreed and declared the law unconstitutional, but a panel of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges, while agreeing that the mandate and tax penalty were unconstitutional, ruled that the remainder of the law needed to be more closely scrutinized to see if it was severable from the mandate or not.
“The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power,” the 5th Circuit judges ruled, Fox News reported, as they kicked the case back down to the lower courts so the severability issue could be considered.
Democrat states fighting to save Obamacare
Interestingly, though Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is named as the defendant in the case due to his position, the Trump administration isn’t making any efforts to defend the law they want to see overturned.
Instead, a collection of 20 Democrat-run states and the District of Columbia are acting to defend Obamacare in the courts.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that as the court considers this particular case regarding the individual mandate, other aspects of Obamacare are also being challenged separately in ongoing litigation.
There have been calls from some, most notably the Trump administration, for the Supreme Court to hold off on considering the overarching constitutionality question until the other Obamacare cases have been settled by the courts, but others have pressed the issue, partly out of a political sense that the discussion of healthcare will help Democrats but also out of desire to simply settle the issue once and for all.
Healthcare will be a top election issue
In all likelihood, arguments in this case will be heard by the court before November, but a decision won’t be rendered until some time later.
That means healthcare will, once again, be a hot-button issue during the election as Democrats argue for greater governmental control over the healthcare system while Republicans argue for more choice and competition in a free-market structure.