The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down what remains of Obamacare after waves of Republican legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act, telling the court in a brief filed late Thursday that “the entire ACA must fall.” The move comes as hundreds of thousands of newly out-of-work Americans have used the Obama-era health care law to get coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. Dismantling the law, an obsession of Republican lawmakers for a full decade now, would leave more than 20 million people without health coverage. Despite having a decade to come up with an alternative to the law, and two years in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans have offered no viable alternative for how to make sure Americans can go to the doctor.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the Supreme Court is set to hear yet another Republican challenge to the law—the third to go before the court—this fall. This, the GOP’s umpteenth legal challenge to giving Americans health insurance, comes via a Texas-led group of Republican state attorneys general. “The case began after the Republican-led Congress in 2017, unable to secure the votes to abolish the law, reduced to zero the penalty for a person not buying health insurance,” the Washington Post notes. “Lawyers for the state of Texas argued that in doing so, Congress had removed the essential tax element that the Supreme Court had previously ruled made the program constitutional.”
The Trump administration hopped onto that legal bandwagon Thursday, arguing in Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s brief that, essentially, the Affordable Care Act is the individual mandate, or the requirement that everyone have some form of health coverage. Since the individual mandate and the fines that accompany it have been struck, the administration now argues, “it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall.” The timing of the hearing on the GOP’s challenge is particularly ludicrous given it comes at a time when all Americans are under threat from the coronavirus. The GOP has used Obamacare as an election issue since the early days of the bill’s passage, drumming up resentment from segments of the population who did not want to give up their freedom to be unable to pay extortionate medical bills.
It will be interesting to see how the anti–health care message plays during a national health crisis that should cause a rethink in how the country cares for its citizens. Much like Trump’s law-and-order messaging in response to the anti–police brutality protests after the killing of George Floyd, it seems highly plausible that Republicans’ Obamacare destruction mission is newly out of sync with how Americans feel about the issue now. It is not a foregone conclusion that voters in the middle of the country will link the public health failures cascading down around them to the public policies that facilitated those failures, but the current moment seems more capable than any in compelling introspection. Ending Obamacare would, for example, end the prohibition on insurance companies denying people coverage due to a preexisting condition—something that being sick with the coronavirus and its aftereffects might count as.