The challengers were comprised of 18 GOP-dominated states, led by Texas, that took issue with the ACA’s individual mandate – which required most Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
But Congress reduced the penalty to zero in 2017. Challengers argued that without the mandate, the rest of the law should be scrapped, too. The court ruled that eliminated the harm the states were claiming.
“To have standing, a plaintiff must ‘allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief,’” the majority wrote. “No plaintiff has shown such an injury ‘fairly traceable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ challenged here.”
Justice Stephen Breyer authored the opinion. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.
The decision said that the mandate in question did not require the 18 states that brought the complaint to pay anything, and therefore they had no standing.
President Joe Biden has said he plans to build on the ACA – which was enacted while he was vice president – to offer coverage to more Americans.
This marks the third time the Supreme Court spared the Obama-era law from GOP attacks. The mandate was also upheld in 2012 in a 5 to 4 ruling.
American Medical Association president Gerald Harmon, MD, also called for building on the ruling to expand the law.
“With yet another court decision upholding the ACA now behind us, we remain committed to strengthening the current law and look forward to policymakers advancing solutions to improve the ACA,” Dr. Harmon said in a statement. “The AMA will continue working to expand access to health care and ensure that all Americans have meaningful, comprehensive, and affordable health coverage to improve the health of the nation.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a longtime advocate for the ACA, called the decision a “landmark victory for Democrats.”
“Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Americans across the country and Democrats in Congress, the Affordable Care Act endures as a pillar of American health and economic security alongside Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” she said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also celebrated the ruling.
“The Affordable Care Act has won. The Supreme Court has just ruled: the ACA is here to stay and now we’re going to try to make it bigger and better,” he said, according to CNN. “For more than a decade, the assault on our health care law was relentless from Republicans in Congress, from the executive branch itself and from Republican attorneys general in the courts. Each time in each arena, the ACA has prevailed.”
This article was updated June 17, 2021.
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