Let's take it back a few years...eight to be more specific. Nearly eight years ago the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. In the middle of a presidential election, a split court ruled the ACA individual mandate was not "unconstitutional" and therefore, all Americans would be required to have health insurance, or pay a fine.
Now, as we are in the midst of another presidential election, the House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court to reaffirm that the mandate is constitutional but this time on a fast track and before review in the lower courts is completed. The Supreme Court decided to not fast track a decision on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, leaving many Americans worried about the status of the ACA and the future of health care altogether.
If you are asking yourself what all this means, we outline a few key points that everyone should remember moving forward:
- In December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed with a federal district court in Texas that the mandate is unconstitutional now that there is no longer a penalty for failing to buy health insurance
- The court of appeals sent the case back to the district court for it to consider what parts, if any, of the ACA might still survive
- Briefs were filed by the individuals and states challenging the mandate, as well as by the federal government
- The federal government has declined to defend the ACA, countering that there is “no emergency” that would justify a departure from the court’s normal procedures
- The denial of the motions means that the responses to the petitions will not be due until February 3, unless that date is extended
- The justices will not consider the petitions until a conference in late February or early March – too late for the court to hear oral arguments during this term even if the petitions are granted
- It also means that the status of the ACA will remain up in the air throughout the 2020 election season
If you are feeling frustrated about the constant back-and-forth regarding the government, the Supreme Court, and the ACA, we assure you, you are not alone. The courts are frustrated. The doctors are frustrated. The insurers are frustrated. Most importantly, the voters are frustrated. All we can do is promise to keep you updated, in-the-know, and help your business, employers, and employees stay compliant.
If you would like to learn more about the Texas, et al, vs. the United States of America, et al case, please watch our webinar discussing the lawsuit, the decision, and what's changed here.