Today, the U.S. Supreme Court once again upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the law of the land, determining that the plaintiffs in California v. Texas lacked standing to sue. Lack of standing means that the plaintiffs could not show that they were harmed by the law they were challenging, which bars any ability to sue in federal court.
From the beginning, many experts and observers dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous and inconsistent with settled law. Despite this widely held belief, the case progressed through federal court, and the Trump administration, instead of defending the law, wholly embraced the poor legal reasoning and attacked the law in court.
Now, the Supreme Court has found that those initial impressions of the case’s validity were sound. The plaintiffs argued that because Congress had zeroed out any penalty for failing to enroll in health coverage, the ACA law that required such coverage had become more coercive, not less, and was unconstitutional. The court found that “[n]o plaintiff has shown such an injury” or a “particularized individual harm” from any “allegedly unlawful conduct.” The court emphasized that “[Our] cases have consistently spoken of the need to assert an injury that is the result of a statute’s actual or threatened enforcement, whether today or in the future.”
Despite its frivolity, this threat to the ACA would have had massive implications for the American health care system. A full repeal would have damaged Medicare; ended expansion Medicaid; opened millions of Americans up to loss of coverage due to pre-existing conditions; and put hospitals, especially in rural areas, at risk of closure.
Medicare Rights is happy to see this result, though we remain frustrated that this case was not immediately rejected by lower courts as patently invalid. The ACA continues to be the law of the land and we urge prompt dismissal of any additional frivolous lawsuits that put health coverage at risk for millions of people.
We also urge Congress and the Biden administration to build upon the successes of the ACA, working together to ensure greater affordability and access to care and coverage for everyone in the United States. The ACA improved Medicare by lowering prescription drug costs and improving preventive care, but we must do more to bolster the program for older adults and people with disabilities, including expanding benefits, further lowering and capping medication costs, and improving access to supports for people with lower incomes.