Supreme Court will take up challenge to Obamacare's individual mandate

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will take up a legal challenge to Obamacare, agreeing to hear the case in its new term that begins in October. That means the program will continue for at least another year and any ruling will come after Election Day.

It also means the justices won't be handing down a ruling on the contentious issue of health care this June, just as the presidential campaign heats up. That may be good news for Republicans, who would prefer to avoid the issue in an election year.

federal appeals court ruled in December that the individual mandate in Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, is unconstitutional. But it sent the case back to the trial judge for another look at whether the entire law is invalid or some parts can survive.

The U.S. House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, and a group of blue states urged the Supreme Court in January to take the case and issue a decision promptly, in its current term, instead of leaving the fate of the law in limbo.

7 PHOTOS
Republicans who voted 'No' on repeal of Obamacare
See Gallery
Republicans who voted 'No' on repeal of Obamacare

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Texas

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz.

(Photo via REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

(Photo via REUTERS/John Sommers II)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"That uncertainty threatens adverse consequences for our nation's health care system, including for patients, doctors, insurers, and state and local governments," they told the court.

But the justices rejected the invitation for expedited scheduling, agreeing instead to follow the normal rules.

Since the law was passed, opponents have attacked a central feature known as the individual mandate., which requires all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty on their income tax. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012, ruling that it was a legitimate exercise of Congress's taxing authority.

But in 2017, the Republican-led Congress set the tax penalty at zero. That led Texas and a group of red states to rule that the revised law is unconstitutional. A federal judge in Texas agreed, ruling that because the tax was eliminated, the law could not no longer be saved as a use of the taxing power. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld that ruling by a 2-1 vote in mid-December.

But the appeals court decision ordered the trial judge to reconsider his ruling that the entire law must fall without the glue of the individual mandate holding it together.

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, it will not go back to the trial judge for that analysis. The justices will hear the case in the fall, with a decision by June of 2021.

Read Full Story