Oral arguments for the Trump administration-backed lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will be heard at the Supreme Court on Nov. 10, just one week after the presidential election.
If successful, the lawsuit would result in 20 million people losing health insurance while the country is in the middle of a pandemic. President Trump and congressional Republicans have no replacement plan.
Democrats have been hammering Trump over his position on health care, and the lawsuit is hanging over GOP campaigns across the country.
Vulnerable Republican lawmakers up for reelection have largely dodged questions about their positions on the lawsuit, as Democrats’ defense of the ACA helped the party win back the House in 2018 amid the law’s increased popularity.
The stakes for the GOP have also risen as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 170,000 lives in the U.S. and health care has taken on even greater electoral significance.
A decision to overturn the law would likely throw the country’s health care system into chaos early in Trump’s second term or former Vice President Joe Biden‘s first.
Still, since arguments won’t be heard until after the election, the administration has some political cover.
The case against the law is being led by Texas and a group of GOP-led states. California and a group of Democratic-led states are defending the law after the highly unusual decision by Trump’s Justice Department not to defend it, given the Justice Department traditionally defends federal laws in court.
A federal district judge in Texas agreed with the Republican-led states that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and struck down the entirety of ObamaCare in 2018, but the judge’s ruling was put on hold while the case moved through the courts.
The administration’s argument is that the law cannot survive without an individual mandate for health insurance. The financial penalty for not having insurance was repealed as part of the GOP tax law in 2017.
Most legal observers think the current makeup of the Supreme Court would rule to uphold the law, especially given that Chief Justice John Roberts has already upheld it in two previous ObamaCare cases, but nothing is certain at the high court.
Trump announced earlier this month that he may sign an executive order to require that health insurers cover all preexisting conditions — something that ObamaCare already does.
Trump at the time claimed that mandating insurers cover all preexisting conditions “has never been done before.”