11, November 2020
A more conservative Supreme Court appears unwilling to do what Republicans have long desired: kill off the Affordable Care Act, including its key protections for pre-existing health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums that affect tens of millions of Americans.
Meeting remotely a week after the election and in the midst of a pandemic that has closed their majestic courtroom, the justices on Tuesday took on the latest Republican challenge to the Obama-era health care law, with three appointees of President Donald Trump, an avowed foe of the law, among them.
But at least one of those Trump appointees, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, seemed likely to vote to leave the bulk of the law intact, even if he were to find the law’s now-toothless mandate that everyone obtain health insurance to be unconstitutional.
“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place,” Kavanaugh said.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote two earlier opinions preserving the law, stated similar views, and the court’s three liberal justices are almost certain to vote to uphold the law in its entirety. That presumably would form a majority by joining a decision to cut away only the mandate, which now has no financial penalty attached to it. Congress zeroed out the penalty in 2017, but left the rest of the law untouched.