Supreme Court keeps ACA in place

Supreme Court keeps ACA in place

Greg Dattilo, CEBS & Grant Dattilo

We can now be certain: The Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land for the foreseeable future. Any changes will likely be incremental, and will come through Congress, not the courts.

On June 16, 2021, in the case known as California v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), has decided for the third time not to overturn the ACA. Actually, the SCOTUS did not rule on the facts or merits in the case, and it is unlikely it will get another chance. Now it is up to Congress to change the Affordable Care Act, which it will do piecemeal.

SCOTUS ruled 7-2 in California v. Texas, the name of the case. The Court said the plaintiffs did not have “standing” to sue. “Standing” means that the plaintiffs must prove they are suffering harm, or that they have or might suffer harm because, in this case, of the ACA as it is today. The “Texas” case included 18 U.S. states and two individuals as co-plaintiffs, all who claimed they had standing, that is, that they suffered harm.

The Plaintiffs claimed that since 2017, when Congress had voted to end enforcement of the ACA’s individual mandate to buy health insurance, the whole Act should be struck down. It’s a legal principle called “severability” – if a critical piece of the law fails, then the whole law fails.

During Congressional debate about the ACA in 2009 and 2010 Congress expressed the clear and absolute need for the mandate to require individuals to own health insurance. Congress strongly suggested the law would not work without it.

In 2017, when Congress instructed the IRS not to enforce the tax penalty, it functionally killed the mandate. Texas, and the others who joined their lawsuit, said the whole law should fail. That was the core of their argument before the SCOTUS. In the Texas case, SCOTUS said that since there is no longer a penalty for not owning health insurance, the plaintiffs would no longer suffer harm for refusing to purchase insurance. Hence, the plaintiffs had no standing.

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the majority in the 7-2 decision. Alito, in fact, blamed the SCOTUS for failing three times now to rule on the constitutionality of the ACA, but his opinion now makes no difference. Without Congress choosing to rescind the law they will, instead, tinker with it and it will continue to grow in its influence.

At Dattilo Consulting, Inc. we strive to serve the best interests of our clients. Our clients are subject to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. We will continue to do whatever we can to assist our clients in finding the greatest possible value in employee benefits, and especially group health insurance.

Thus we will remain diligent to research the laws passed by Congress and their regulations. We will continue to work to influence the legislative and regulatory processes that affects them and our clients.

We can’t control the rain, but we will provide weather warnings and provide our clients with umbrellas and safe shelter.

Grant Dattilo