The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected, 7-2, an effort by Republican state officials, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, to strike down the Affordable Care Act. From CNN:
The justices noted that there is no harm to opponents from the provisions that they are challenging because Congress has reduced the penalty for failing to buy health insurance to zero.
“For these reasons, we conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”
The ruling means that the justices won’t rule on the merits of the lawsuit, which was the third time they’ve been asked to consider a significant challenge to the law, but instead they will allow the law to stand.
Alito and Gorsuch dissented. The Trump administration and Republican states, led by Texas but with frequent and outspoken support from Rutledge, tried to invalidate the law. Its defeat would have ended the Medicaid expansion to 300,000 Arkansans, along with elimination a variety of valuable aspects of the law. It was once a rallying cry for conservatives, but in the years it has been in place it has grown to win majority approval among vogters.
UPDATE: In defeat, Rutledge claims victory.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on procedural grounds. Arkansas was a part of an 18-state coalition arguing that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Today’s decision recognized that the individual mandate has no teeth and is unenforceable.
“At no point in today’s decision do the Supreme Court Justices address the merits of our argument that Obamacare is unconstitutional,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans deserve better, and I will continue to urge Congress to establish a comprehensive healthcare law that will allow states to be flexible while ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
More accurate is the statement from the League of Women Voters:
“The Supreme Court’s dismissal of today’s case will keep our vital health care law intact, preserving coverage for millions of Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act every day.
“Over the last year, we have seen challenges to our health care system in the middle of a global pandemic, particularly impacting women and people of color. The League commends the Court for upholding the ACA, and in doing so, ensuring the right to affordable health care access for all Americans.
“We must continue to work for health justice and ensure the ACA remains the law of the land.”
Governor Hutchinson also chose not to emphasize the reality of Obamacare’s survival.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling, dismissing the case on procedural grounds, leaves the question of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act unanswered. In my view, the question of whether the Congress overreached its powers in enacting the far-reaching health care law was important and a legitimate issue to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The fact that the Court dismissed the case on the lack of standing makes it unlikely that the court will reconsider the issue in the future.“For that reason, it is important for Arkansas to pursue the ARHOME waiver request in order to avoid the interruption of health care services to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans, as we also continue to innovate in ways that will motivate Arkansans to take personal responsibility for their health and future.“ARHOME, our new Medicaid expansion plan, will require insurance carriers to do more than cover the costs of medical care. We want the companies to play a role in motivating Arkansans to get healthy through changes in lifestyle such as quitting smoking, exercising more, getting preventative wellness exams, and prenatal care. We want our health care to make Arkansans healthier.”