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On June 17, 2021, the US Supreme Court declined to overturn the Affordable Care Act by a 7-2 vote, rejecting a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican state attorneys general claiming that a change made by Congress in 2017 had rendered the entire law unconstitutional.
It’s the third time since 2010 that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, has survived a challenge, allowing millions to keep their insurance coverage amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This decision reversed a lower court ruling finding the individual mandate unconstitutional. However, the court did not address the question of whether a key provision in the law was unconstitutional and whether the bulk of the law could stand without a provision that initially required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty. Instead, the court held the plaintiffs do not have standing in the case, or a legal right to bring the suit.
President Joe Biden tweeted that the decision is “a big win for the American people.” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who helped write the law as a member of Congress and now is responsible for implementing it, said the decision “means that all Americans continue to have a right to access affordable care, free of discrimination. More than 133 million people with preexisting conditions, like cancer, asthma or diabetes, can have peace of mind knowing that the health protections they rely on are safe.”
Millions of Americans (including nearly 6 million Californians) gained health insurance coverage as a result of the ACA, President Barack Obama’s landmark law passed in 2010. Hundreds of millions more have had their health care and coverage affected by provisions as wide-ranging as changes in Medicare drug copayments, requirements for calorie counts on menus, a pathway for approval of generic copies of expensive biologic drugs, protections for people with preexisting conditions, and a ban on lifetime caps on coverage.
The ACA, has been the subject of unrelenting Republican opposition. But Congressional attempts to repeal it have failed as well. The latest challenge threatened to undo coverage gains under the law that helped drive down the uninsured rate to a record low. Since enacted 11 years ago, the law has gained popularity and reshaped virtually every corner of American healthcare.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted “This ruling reaffirms what we have long known to be true: the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
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