The Affordable Care Act is headed back to the Supreme Court. The high court announced today that it would review a Texas decision from December that ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional.
Last year, a panel from the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the individual mandate in a case brought by Texas and several other states. The case hinges on whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law after Congress eliminated the penalty for noncompliance.
“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 court said in its ruling.
A judge in Texas originally ruled that the absence of the mandate meant that the entire law should be struck down. Now a coalition of blue states led by California is challenging that opinion at the Supreme Court.
Before conservatives get too excited, they should remember that the ACA has survived several trips to the Supreme Court in the past. Most famously, Chief Justice John Roberts authored a 2012 decision that found the individual mandate to be a tax and allowed the law to stand.
The case tosses a hand grenade into the 2020 elections. Although the law was unpopular for years, since Donald Trump has been in office public opinion has reversed. Polling currently shows that voters approve of Obamacare by double-digit margins. With the health insurance law threatened, healthcare reform could emerge as an even larger issue in the upcoming elections.
The Court has not yet set a date to hear the case, but it is likely that a ruling would not be issued until after the election.