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Supreme Court rejects Republican challenge to affordable care law

The Supreme Court on Thursday morning dismissed the Conservatives’ latest challenge to the affordable care law, rejecting the Trump administration’s proposal to have the entire health care law rejected.

Why is this important: Decision 7-2 will allow the ACA, which covers some 20 million people and has been the law of the land for 11 years, to continue to operate. It also shows that there are limits to what the Republican agenda can be accomplished by the courts, even with a strong Conservative majority.

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Details: The court said the Republican attorneys general lacked the legal capacity to bring their lawsuit, which sought to overturn the entire ACA. This is the third time that the Supreme Court has saved the law.

How we got here: The ACA required most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty tax. When the law was first passed, this mandate was seen as essential to making the other provisions of the law work, especially its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

  • In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate as an exercise of congressional taxing power. The federal government couldn’t just force people to buy insurance, the court said, but it could tax their decision not to.

  • In 2017, as part of the GOP’s tax reduction plan, Congress waived the penalty for non-insurance, voiding the individual mandate.

  • A group of Republican attorneys general then filed a complaint. The tax penalty was now gone, and all that was left was the part that said Americans had to buy insurance. So, they argued, the mandate had become unconstitutional – and the rest of the law had to fall with it.

But the court ruled Thursday that the states that brought the lawsuit could not show that they would suffer prejudice because some form of the warrant is still in effect, and dismissed the lawsuit accordingly.

  • Judge Stephen Breyer wrote the majority decision. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were dissenting.

  • The states trial should have been allowed to continue, Alito argued. The mandate envelope is “clearly unconstitutional, and to the extent that the ACA provisions that weigh on states are inextricably linked to the individual mandate, they too are unenforceable,” he wrote.

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