On Tuesday, during arguments in a landmark case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested they were inclined to favor “severing” the individual mandate from the rest of the ACA. The ACA provides affordable medical coverage to tens of millions of Americans over the past decade.
In the case, the high court is seeking to determine whether eliminating the mandate — the part of the law that required all uninsured Americans to buy health insurance through ACA exchanges or pay an income tax penalty — renders the entire healthcare law, known colloquially as Obamacare, unconstitutional.
Kavanaugh suggested the ACA could still pass constitutional muster without the mandate. Roberts later said he disagreed with a coalition of 18 Republican-led states headed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who argue the ACA was rendered unconstitutional by President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which removed the penalty and declared it illegal.
Some experts believe the case is the most important decision the Supreme Court will issue this term, which began last month and ends at the end of June. Striking down the ACA would cost as many as 20 million Americans their medical coverage and bring a tax cut to the wealthy.
Trump has been trying to repeal the ACA since he stepped into office. President-elect Joe Biden, who helped craft the 2010 law, said during his campaign that he would enhance and expand it.